We were 100 strong, spending an afternoon out of the corporate office in a department meeting reviewing progress and plans.

At one point rather early on the VP introduced an exercise.  Joe asked each of us to write down on a piece of paper as many of the 7 corporate tenets that we could remember.  He challenged us — “How many of you in the room can name all seven?”  The department admins collected our responses, and the meeting transitioned to the next agenda topic.

As you might gather, during the meeting the responses were compiled.  He closed the meeting with the results.  I honestly don’t remember if anyone got all seven; I probably don’t remember due to what he chose to focus on instead … It went something like this:

“I am ashamed and angry at the responses I received from this team…”  He went on… well, I’ll let you imagine how he went on.

It seems one of us wrote down the seven deadly sins — wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony — and somebody else simply wrote “greed” seven times!

After the meeting is when it got really interesting…

The meeting was on a Thursday.  On Friday, a murmur began to circulate through the office.  Joe had directed the admins to examine the handwriting on the two inappropriate responses to determine the authors!

I was appalled! (no, not because I was an author … c’mon!).

I immediately began spinning on the implications.  First, it was likely that one or both would lose their jobs.  Second, the rest of us would be threatened.  Third, the chances of any kind of open, double-loop dialogue in the near future were slim and none.

This was a culture defining moment if ever there was one, and not in a good way.

Friday, before leaving the office, I left Joe a “buck slip” on his desk (remember those?) with only one handwritten comment — “please do not act on your search; consider the wider implications.”

I was called to his office Monday morning before my second sip of coffee.  I tried to productively reason with him…

I submitted my resignation some 30 days later, leaving of my own volition (I was already well into a job search).

The tag cloud on the right is pretty clear.  I think culture matters.  A lot.

I viscerally remember the culture there, the way things were done.  I remember the witch hunt.

I don’t remember the 7 corporate tenets.