Corporate Culture Challenges

Lesson 3: Topic 6 of 8

The reality is, as Marcus Buckingham has pointed out, “A company doesn’t have one culture; it has as many cultures as it has managers.” If those leaders disagree sufficiently, in times of upheaval, they may disrupt the overall culture and tenor of the workplace, and possibly wind up undermining or sabotaging each other. 

Arthur Demoulas, CEO of Market Basket, a New England chain of supermarkets, learned this the hard way. Business Insider called him “among the most popular CEOs of all time.” Demoulas not only believed in paying higher than average wages and offering excellent benefits (such as healthcare, profit sharing, bonuses, and job training); he also made it a priority to know his employees personally. He knew the names of their spouses and which schools their children attended. Demoulas received ― and frequently accepted ― invitations from his employees to graduations, weddings, funerals, and other family events. When Market Basket’s Board of Directors decided to get rid of Demoulas, several C-Suite executives quit in protest. What’s more, thousands of line workers walked out, shutting down multiple store locations. Strikes normally are associated with demands for better working conditions or increased wages and benefits, but in this case Market Basket’s employees were willing to risk their jobs for their boss. 

Kenny Eliason on Unsplash lnha lnfa rcal ala hcbs renewal NAB NCERS nfa nha

Gaining love and loyalty at work may not motivate you personally, but consider the financial results: Demoulas was credited for doubling profits during his first eight years with the company. Profit sharing made employees conscious of the need to be efficient and minimize wastefulness. Attendance was high and turnover low. During his tenure Demoulas quintupled their retail locations and cultivated a devoted customer base. The Lowell Sun hailed Demoulas for having built “the most successful supermarket chain of the Northeast” and named him “Man of the Year” in 2013. Even though the Board was ultimately successful in their effort to oust him, and most of the striking employees eventually returned to work, Market Basket’s reputation suffered. We aren’t going to flinch away from the fact that you might not always be on the winning side when transition happens. But you can, like Demoulas, maintain your integrity and walk away with a legacy any leader can be proud of.