How to Lose Your Sheen
The odds are strong that Peter Drucker never watched the hit sitcom “Two and a Half Men.” (Apparently, the only thing he ever tuned in to was the World Series.) But Drucker surely would have applauded Warner Bros.’s decision to finally sack star Charlie Sheen this week had he learned of the actor’s unconscionable behavior.
Drucker believed that management had to be willing to shed even the most “indispensable” employees should they display questionable integrity. Keeping them in place, he maintained, effectively “abets a cancerous growth.”
[EXPAND More]In his 1973 classic Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, Drucker wrote that “the spirit of an organization is created from the top. If an organization is great in spirit, it is because the spirit of its top people is great. If it decays, it does so because the top rots; as the proverb has it, ‘Trees die from the top.’ No one should ever be appointed to a senior position unless top management is willing to have his or her character serve as the model for subordinates.”
But did Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner, move quickly enough?
A strong case has been made that for far too long, Sheen got away with behavior toward women that had clearly crossed the line from loutish to violent, and yet he survived because his show was drawing huge ratings and generating big profits. What ultimately brought him down, some say, was a public tiff with with his producer, rather than his misogynistic conduct. (Contrast this with the swift firing of the fashion company Christian Dior’s chief designer, John Galliano, after he was caught on tape making anti-Semitic remarks.)
Hollywood often acts as if it lives by a different set of rules from everyone else. But to Drucker, such a belated response will inevitably undermine a company’s credibility not just with the public, but within the organization itself. “Employees judge the values and the competency of their management by their people decisions,” Drucker wrote. “If people decisions are based on politics rather than merit, everyone in the organization knows it. They will despise management . . . and either leave out of frustration, or more likely, turn into politicians themselves.”
What about you: Have you ever seen office politics protect and promote the wrong people? What did that do to culture and morale?[/EXPAND]