Innovation Insight: How a Bad Reputation Can Foster a Stronger Corporate Culture

Katherine Raleigh
Programme Manager | Wed 19 Oct
Innovation Insight: How a Bad Reputation Can Foster a Stronger Corporate Culture

At this month’s Innovation Day, Dr. Thomas Roulet, King’s College London, shared his recent research about the most hated companies and what we can learn from how these companies survive a bad reputation and build a stronger organisational identity.

It’s important for organisations to not underestimate reputational risk. A negative reputation has a negative effect on a company’s performance. Moreover, the disapproval of an organisation can lead to both less satisfied customers and more dissatisfied employees.

However, for some companies, facing a strong wave of hostility – either driven by public opinion, by the media or by particular stakeholder groups – has not been an obstacle for growth, but has opened a world of new opportunities. They have managed to survive, and sometimes even capitalise on outsiders’ anger. How?

Dr. Thomas Roulet, King’s College London, presented his research on how the power of being divisive can have a strong influence on motivating employees and building a strong set of values. Here are some key insights from the day:

  • Re-motivate your employees. A big survey in the banking industry carried out by Dr. Roulet showed that if an organisation manages to make its employees perceive the outside criticism as illegitimate, employees will feel closer to the organisation and be more satisfied and less dissatisfied.
  • Find out who your haters are. “Haters” are everywhere: among customers, stakeholders or in the workplace. Social media has made it much easier, and at low-cost, to go online to trash colleagues or competitors. The silver lining of having haters, however, is that it can have a positive effect on identity and sense of pride for your supporters and/or employees.
  • Reframe the perception of your organisation. Various industries and occupations that, in their nature, trigger public hostility, often re-construct a reality around their profession and build a sense of being proud in the image of themselves. They cognitively shield themselves to ignore and discard the way they are perceived by the outside.
  • Build a coherent set of values. Big companies in stigmatised industries often build a solid company culture by making their staff feel like they are in the right and everybody else is wrong. If you present a collective voice and a corporate set of values that your employees align with, your staff can become defenders against outside criticism.

Clients at the Innovation Day expressed that although their organisation may not usually suffer from a bad reputation, learning from these organisations is still very relevant. Build a stronger corporate identity by making the effort to explain reasons and justify activities to employees. It’s important to present a collective voice and a shared set of values.

Next month, clients – including HH Global, PDSA and Sunderland City Council – will be exploring new crowdsourcing tools to leverage the wisdom of crowds. For more information, please view the Innovation Day page.

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