Diaper Genies are a FABULOUS invention– for parents and nurseries. They hide the stink of a poopie diaper and exponentially increase the interval necessary to empty the trash. The stink stays conveniently wrapped tightly in plastic so no one can smell it. The stink is unavoidable and the Diaper Genie provides a welcome reprieve.
But sadly, in so many companies around the world, I see a similar effect. Employees take the stinky issues, and disguise them so cleverly with spin, sandwiched feedback, and carefully crafted PowerPoints, that no one can smell the real problem.
The Diaper Drama Includes…
- Spinning the truth
- Watering down feedback
- Omitting information that may trigger alarm
- Manipulating data
Signs You May Have a Diaper Drama Culture (and what to do about it)
The minute I pull out the Diaper Genie in one of my keynotes, the heads start to nod. Ahh, yes. We do that here. So if this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.
Here are few signs, you may have a diaper genie culture.
1. Meetings are readouts, not discussions
If meetings are more of a one-way information dump, it’s likely you’re not having the tough conversations that would up your game. Ask questions. “What else do I need to know?” “What are you most worried about? What’s making you nervous?” “What could possibly go wrong…. and how can I help?” See also our thinking on how to “own the ugly.”
2. You spend more time crafting the communication than having the conversation
I once worked for a boss where we would have at least 27 rehearsals before any executive presentation. We were all coached on exactly which topics to avoid at all costs– lest we draw attention to our challenge areas. If you’re more worried about font size than fixing problems, you’re likely in a diaper genie culture. Even if you’re working in such a culture, stop that crap on your own team. Encourage your team to focus on substance over form at least in their readouts to you.
3. Bad news is a powder keg
If you’ve got bosses running around that react poorly to bad news, check closely for diaper genies. They’re probably filled to the brim. It doesn’t take long to train your people to lay low and avoid the tough conversations. If you want a diaper-genie free culture, encourage bad news and respond with supportive solutions, not anxiety-laced freak outs.
4. It’s “Groundhog Day” all over again
Like in the movie Groundhog Day, if you’re constantly “fixing” issues only to have them pop up again, you may be in a diaper genie culture. Be sure you’re asking the strategic questions to get to the heart of the problem. Are there performance/job fit issues that need to be addressed? Are there processes that need to be changed? Rip through the plastic and smell what stinks so you can address it.
5. Don’t ask, don’t tell, is the norm
I’ve worked with companies where the employees tell me the unspoken rule… “Never ever bring up the truth in a focus group.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about employees being coached (and in some cases even “bribed” with extra treats to paint a rosy picture on an employee survey or in a focus group.) Nothing crushes morale faster than feeling you don’t have a voice. This is one of the worst examples of gaming the score.
If you’re living in a diaper drama culture, you may not be able to fix the scene overnight, but you can focus on your team and cutting through the facade and exposing the stink at least in your sphere of influence. When the results start to soar, spread the word.