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A Culture of Fear breeds dishonesty

Who’s ever worked in an organisation where a Culture of Fear reigned, usually run by a CEO with a questionable personality? It’s often not a pleasant place to work and insidious behaviour breeds at all levels. This happened, with much media attention in the end, at a company I have a long standing relationship with: Fletcher Building.

The typical thing with psychopaths is they prioritise looking good to others, for which they will go to any length. They’ll hurriedly ditch honesty and integrity in situations where they might end up looking bad. Mark Adamson of course wanted to show a profit month on month, yet it seemed to be driven by a huge ego and a relentless pursuit of power.

The strategies he pursued reflected this. People responded in a number of different ways. Some held their integrity on shaky grounds despite threats. Others resigned, but the majority conformed. And I don’t blame them. It’s the safest route to keep the peace in a situation like that, even if it means engaging in behaviour you wouldn’t normally.

I came unstuck in his regime when the team I was working with started to cover up health and safety incidents. Nothing major, but I know when incidents aren’t shared honestly in most situations, problems arise down the track. It’s not fair to the people. I’ve since learned this was going on everywhere, and even an offshore fatality had been covered up!

So I went ahead and blew the whistle. As a result, my relationship with my bosses fell apart. Soon enough I found myself without a job. In hindsight, it’s clear to me my bosses weren’t bad people. They were good people and were otherwise looking after the staff very well. The dishonesty wasn’t really their fault.

The thing is though, these dishonest regimes are only as strong as the people who comply with them. It’s not an easy thing to go against the grain when you’re the only one, and I certainly paid the price for it. If in society we normalised an ethic that wouldn’t stand for these things, Fletcher Building would never have ended up in that situation.



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