Unit 5, Lesson 13- Every Organization Needs a Good Thermostat

When I began working with my current employer I could tell that there was something in the air that just wasn’t right. It appeared obvious to me that at least initially some of the employees were putting a mask every day and had yet to truly reveal their identity. I had inherited a team that had been without a manager for nearly half a year. When I spoke to the manager that had been looking after them for the past month or so she told me that she thought most of the team was underperforming and should be placed on a performance improvement plan at the least.

I had always tried to lead by example. If I told my employees to be at work on time, I would have to be on time. If I demanded the best from my employees, they should expect the same from me. I believe if you’re going to “talk the talk” you need to “walk the walk”. I felt that it was all about setting the right tone creating right type of culture or climate on the team. As the team began to recognize my leadership style, some members began to move in then direction that I was trying to take the team. Some members of the team resisted the change that I was trying to institute.

I found that I had a few members of my team that were more content to do things the way they were used to doing them before I became their manager. These employees had become accustomed to taking breaks when they wanted, coming into to work late, not meeting organizational standards and basically, manipulating the rules at work. These employees were not used to being held accountable for their actions and therefore participate in unethical work behaviors.

The more I held them accountable to the standard the harder they would resist. I would counsel them and coach them on the importance of meeting the organizational standards as well as mine. It got to the point where this form of unethical behavior became a barrier between me, the other employees and the direction that I wanted to take the team. Over time, their behaviors that were inconsistent with organizational standards resulted in the eventual termination of those employees.

Since the termination of the employees that exhibited unethical behavior, we have gone from a team that collectively struggled to meet organizational goals, to a team that is now leading the way. To me, this is proof that a leader can set the standard for ethical behavior in the organization. It is the leader that is responsible for holding employees accountable when they engage in less than ethical behaviors on the team. It is up to the leader to control the climate in their organization. The leader needs to be the thermostat that controls the climate and not simply the thermometer that reports it.



Pennsylvania State University. (2016). Lesson 13: Ethical climate. Retrieved from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1775390


  1. John K. Theiring April 24, 2016 at 5:28 PM #


    Always difficult taking on a dysfunctional group but leading by example is one of the strongest ways of encouraging your team to follow suit. Glad you could walk the walk. Sometimes, as much as you try to help someone help themselves, they don’t always make that change or transition. Were you able to have open and honest conversations with these individuals and find out why they were behaving as they were and what would motivate them to change their behavior. Not sure if you have taken the leadership class but situational leadership may have helped by understanding the development level of these individuals and then try to match your leadership style to their development level.



    Penn State University, (2015). PSY 532 Lesson 6, Style and Situational Approaches, https://elearning.la.psu.edu/psy/532/lesson-6

    Northouse, P.G. (2015). Leadership: Theory and practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

  2. Husiela Farani-simmons April 24, 2016 at 5:26 PM #

    Hi Randy – First, congratulations on turning around an underperforming team. That is not an easy task to accomplish. I love the fact that you stress leading by example, as we learned in this lesson and likely have experienced in the past, actions do speak louder than words, especially when it comes to leadership. It seems the members of your team who could not change or adjust their behavior to the new standards were probably best served by leaving. It also sounds like that their departure helped to turn the overall performance around for the members who remained. I have found that it is difficult to bring about change when people perceive the change as something that they have to give up. For example, on your team the members who could not adjust to the emphasis on punctuality, attendance and performance may have felt (however wrong their thinking) that they lost something – e.g. flexibility. It is alway more difficult to “take something” away from people once they are used to having it. In those instances separation/termination often seems the only viable solution. In general, change is difficult. I think that the hardship of change does not come from acquiring whatever the new way of doing something is, rather the difficulty stems from the loss of what we were once used to . For example, with your team, perhaps the difficulty for some to adjust did not stem so much from not wanting to buy into the new vision but rather from having to give up things that they were already comfortable with.

    From the perspective of Victor and Cullen ethical criterion a high level of egoism coupled with a an individual locus of analysis does not bode well for teamwork. Your team members who were terminated were likely driven by self-interest, and as the leader it seems you are driven by principle and morality.

    Thank you for sharing your post, and again, congratulations on leading your team to performance.


    Pennsylvania State University. (2016). Lesson 13: Ethical climate. Retrieved from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1775390

  3. Amanda Rose Grace Cupido April 24, 2016 at 4:54 PM #

    Hi Randy,

    Great read and I completely agree! I have been on many teams where my manager did not uphold their own standards that they set for the team. In some cases, they hold certain people to account for standards they implement, but not others. I find this can negatively affect the organizational climate in both an instrumental way, which is connected to hoe people get work done and in an affective way, which is linked to social relationships within the organization (Penn State 2016). It sounds like you not only got your team to be more productive, but you also established a positive work environment.


    Pennsylvania State University. (2016). PSY 533 SP16. [Online Lecture]. Retrieved from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1775390

  4. Victoria Patrice Montoya April 23, 2016 at 4:28 PM #

    Excellent post highlighting the importance of leaders in establishing and maintaining an ethical climate. It’s so crucial to lead by example and hold employees accountable to a standard of ethical work behavior, and your experience shows how a strong ethical standard can shape a team and lead to success.
    Like the lecture stated, “leaders’ behaviors either endorse [organizational] values and culture or invalidate them” (PSU, 2016). In my current job, I’m a member of a five person team in which one member is the “lead.” Rather than leading by example as you have, this individual is almost always at least 30 minutes late for work, takes extended lunch breaks daily, and almost always leaves before her scheduled end of shift. Another team member recently asked me why I always show up for work early and leave on time, laughing about the fact that I’m the only one of the team actually working an eight hour day. She cited the behavior of our lead and admitted that she feels like she shouldn’t have to take the rules and standards seriously if our lead doesn’t bother to follow them. It’s a prime example of a leader’s behavior not reflecting the ethical values of our organization, leading others to “conclude that the values are not that important” and decreasing the likelihood that others will follow these values (PSU, 2016).
    Thanks for sharing your positive experience with setting the ethical tone in your team.


    Pennsylvania State University. (2016). Lesson 13: Ethical climate. Retrieved from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1775390

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar