You’ve no doubt heard about the “Bridgegate” scandal surrounding New Jersey Governor Christie’s office. Earlier this week it came to light that several high-level aides in Christie’s office orchestrated a massive traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge (connecting Fort Lee, New Jersey and Manhattan). The move was intended to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, who apparently did not support Christie in his most recent bid for the governorship. Christie responded that he was shocked and had no idea what his aides had been up to. The pundits are all over the place on whether or not they believe him. Whatever his involvement in this particular political debacle, it is reasonable to assume that the workplace culture was one in which these types of behaviors were condoned and even encouraged.
It is generally true that employees look to their leaders to set the tone on how to behave in the workplace. If Christie’s management style was (is) to engage in petty turf battles, punish those who did not support him politically and other types of skullduggery, his message may have trickled down to his employees.
Workplace culture and behavioral expectations are set at the highest levels of any organization. What can HR do to ensure the right message is sent? For starters, get executive buy-in for cultural initiatives (via policies and training) like respect in the workplace. Also, lead by example.