We have a problem in Division A. Leaders are not doing their job. Leaders are not living the values. Some people don’t get it. I’ve seen cases of X. I am afraid that Y is spreading. Z is a problem. Division B has become bureaucratic. Group C is a nightmare, nobody talks to each other. There is a lot of frustration in Section D. I’ve seen gross failure of leadership in that management team.
I’m sure you get the picture because you’ve seen this many times. Unqualified, sweeping generalizations, launched in some sort of assumed fertile territory where they will be listened to. Usually negative, of course.
In fact, we are so used to these that they are hardly challenged: whom are you talking about? Everybody? Every day? How wide spread is the spread? Who is frustrated? Who is not living the values? Does ‘failure of leadership’ have names and surnames? Who says?
The default position is to ignore, or produce some strange sound in return, or magic nodding, or be too ready to agree, prolonging the sweeping generalization.
It’s hard to call out, to challenge. But it is the only serious thing to do. Throwing orphan grenades to the field will only create holes and little, or not so little, destruction of the organizational fabric.
It is a sign of a healthy culture to call out people making these statements. And this would be a behaviour that is as spreadable as its opposite. All it takes is that some people start the visible challenge (explain, please; who? this is not how I see it) for others to copy as well.
Caught in friendly fire within your own culture is the worst form of casualty. And sweeping generalizations seem to be a strong brand of grenades.