I am certain many of you saw the Wells Fargo scandal in newspapers and on the news earlier this year. In short, the bank’s management and culture allowed and even rewarded Wells Fargo employees for opening millions of bogus accounts that customers never requested in order to generate fee income for the bank. Think about that. When you choose where you want to bank, you no doubt are looking for a financial steward you can trust. Upwards of 5,300 Wells Fargo employees knew about the scam. Moreover, the bank is now being investigated for unfairly firing those employees who did the right thing and reported the unethical violations of the bank’s customers.
What kind of culture would allow for this unethical, and yes, criminal behavior? You got it: a culture of employee disengagement, and now a company culture with a fervent distrust of Senior Management.
According to a study conducted by management consulting firm cg42, Wells Fargo’s fake account scandal could prompt at least 44% of the bank’s retail customers to walk out the door, and a loss of $99 billion in deposits and a four billion dollar loss in revenue. As devastating as those projections are, to me, they seem low. Wouldn’t you take your business elsewhere?
The story is made even more ironic and sad due to what was posted on the company’s website at the time:
Wells Fargo’s reputation as one of the world’s great companies for integrity and principled performance depends on our doing the right thing, in the right way, and complying with the laws, rules, and regulations that govern our business. We earn trust by behaving ethically and holding all team members and directors accountable for the decisions we make and the actions we take.
Furthermore, one can only imagine how many of the 264,000 Wells Fargo employees are now actively looking for a new place of employment.
Is there scientific proof that higher levels of employee disengagement lead to more unethical behavior? You bet. A July 2010 Hay Group/Ethics Resource Center study definitively proved that the two topics are highly correlated at a .73 coefficient.1
In life and in business, you always have choices. When you choose to nurture a culture of employee engagement, it will result in making decisions that put your employees, brand, and customers first. As a result, you will automatically act with honor, integrity, and ethics.
Source 1: HR Zone, 2016