Business exists to make money. That is its function. Business doesn’t solely rely on function; there is also a sense of responsibility. Over the past number of years, the global vox has come to demand this as a condition of being a customer. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has taken a serious leap into the front seat.

hypocrisyMarketing messages speak about a genuine concern for being a more responsible global citizen. There are some companies who use CSR for a nice PR push and little more. There are also companies who truly try to take their responsibility seriously in these areas. CSR has gone beyond being environmentally sound to being of benefit to society. One doesn’t exclude the other, but rather deepens the idea of what it means to be a responsible corporate citizen.

The gap that is important to recognize is where the internal workings of your organization are – or at least are perceived to be – inferior to that of your CSR efforts. If you’re CSR focus treats and works towards the development of people outside of your organization more than what you’re doing to the people within your organization, then your organization will be perceived as being a hypocrite that is just chasing PR points.

This can be a serious blind spot for companies and will create a significant impact on the profitability of your organization. Here are just a few of the problems it can create:

  • Cynical culture – The people inside your organization will talk about the differences with one another. Trust will quickly erode and that will affect performance. It’s like a dysfunctional family where the parents have this external image with the community, but at home they act differently. Definitely not the dynamic you want running rampant in your organization.
  • Apathy – A feeling of “they don’t really care about me” can easily develop. The logical next step in that thought sequence is, “If they don’t care about me, why should I care about them?” I think you can see where that can lead.
  • Increased employee turnover – People like to feel like they add value to an organization. The only way they can be certain of that is if they feel valued by the organization. Value carries with it a sense of reciprocity. If their efforts and existence aren’t attached to something bigger and valued, they will be happy to begin searching for a place that will offer them that. It’s a human desire, and to ignore this is nothing more than putting your head in the sand.
  • Bad customer service – How your employees perceive to be treated by the organization and its leadership is how they will treat your customers. No amount of disciplinary efforts or policies will change this. It may slightly mitigate the behavior, but it does nothing to address the underlying motivation for it.
  • Excessive conflict – When people feel devalued, they begin attempting to outflank one another in order to meet the need of that pesky human desire to feel valued. Politics ensue and gossip becomes the lingua franca of your organization.

These things are not meant to frighten anyone or over sensationalize an issue, but they are meant to be a wake up call. If you are experiencing any of these things in your organization, have a look to see the equitable nature of your CSR efforts and your organizational culture/employee engagement efforts. If there is an imbalance, you may want to make some adjustments.

The best approach is to get inside your house sorted before going all in with things outside your house. It’s much easier to turn a healthy culture outward than the effects of CSR inward. You want to make a difference in society? Great! Just remember that the people in your organization make up part of society as well.

What are your thoughts on how CSR and organizational culture can potentially be in conflict with one another?