If anyone doubted that corporate culture matters, just ask any of half a dozen companies whose reputations were damaged in recent years due to their toxic cultures. Wells Fargo, Deutsche Bank and Boeing top the list. Any number of news organizations follow them.
More intriguing, however, is the number of nonprofit and donation-based organizations that have so much more to lose when their scandals are splashed over local headlines.
The problem is twofold: there is an assumption that nonprofits are culturally nicer than big corporations (they aren’t always) and there’s a relative lack of preparedness when bad news hits.
It’s one thing for a fossil fuel executive to gloat over corporate profits when people outside the boardroom were freezing to death. Such talk is expected in earnings calls, although someone might have considered the optics before releasing the final script. You can almost dismiss as totally clueless a top-level nonprofit executive flying overseas so he could cut the COVID-19 vaccine line. Almost.
But when organizations that we imagine are ‘better than that’ are caught misbehaving, the backlash is fiercer and headlines more frequent.
Clearly, the Indianapolis Museum of Art and The Lincoln Project are organizations that had culture problems. Their problems, though, remained hidden behind a veneer of silence and perceived good deeds.
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