Another scandal has hit the world media over the past couple of weeks and this time it is not the financial sector that is in the headlines, but the pharmaceutical industry.  It appears that the sales tactics used by some individuals based in China have caused outrage and are now the subject of a fraud investigation. 

No doubt we will hear all kinds of pleas of ignorance, the fact that the company does not support this behaviour and that these individuals were acting outside of the accepted procedures etc.  Then there will probably be a call for new systems and regulations to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

We’ve heard it all before and when these things happen it seems to be the pattern.  There is an expression of outrage and endless disclaimers from senior people in the organisation, followed by the promise that they will put in safeguards to ensure that this kind of thing can never happen again.

However, whatever the industry and regardless of all the rules, regulations and guidelines laid down, as long as organisations continue to reward and applaud their ‘star performers’ even when they are behaving in ways which are unacceptable when it comes to the moral compass, then no matter how many systems we put in place people will continue to behave in such ways.

We have seen it in sport – where individuals become ‘bigger than the team’.  They are allowed to gradually get away with more and more behaviours that would be unacceptable in others, just because they are supposedly so important to the overall performance of the team.  In the long run this is damaging because it destroys overall morale amongst the team and dents the respect of the public for players generally.

We have seen it in the financial sector.  Despite the fact that there are surely many, many highly trustworthy, hardworking and dedicated individuals working in the industry, the general public, helped by the media, now have a generally negative attitude towards ‘bankers’ en masse. 

There will always be a few individuals who will choose to behave in ways that others may find reprehensible, but unless leaders at every level in our organisations start to behave consistently in ways that clearly demonstrate that specific kinds of behaviour are not acceptable, not valued and will not be tolerated under any circumstances, then these kinds of issues will continue to  damage our businesses, sporting organisations and public institutions.

Karen Hunter is Managing Partner at leadership programme provider, The Living Leader