Bye Felicia.

Afew months ago one of my colleagues decided it was time to move on to a new creative firm. Before he left, he sent out a “Bye Felicia [1] ” letter via email to the entire company, 300+ people total. And then, sh*t pretty much hit the fan. Had he not walked out, I’m pretty sure he would’ve been dragged out by the angry mob he created immediately after hitting Send. So what made everyone so upset? Brutal honesty. Apparently the truth really does hurt.

To be fair, the letter could’ve easily been perceived as a slap in the face*. And that’s how most people took it. But I didn’t read it and think, what a jerk! Instead I thought, man, we really let that guy down.

Organizational culture can be seen in how leadership reacts to certain situations. In this case, as in many, leadership had to choose one of only two paths:

  1. The high road
  2. The low road

Leadership took the low road (what a jerk!)—not the outcome I’d hoped for. And not because I was disappointed in the decision, but because the situation was never seen for the opportunity it was.

As a leader, every opportunity is a golden opportunity—a chance to model the behaviors you expect to see across your organization, to maintain your moral compass, show sound judgment, and most important, to live your values. Taking the low road does none of these things; and choosing that path even once can have a devastating effect on your culture and your business as a result. Why?

Taking the low road allows cracks to form within the organization—cracks that naturally grow and collect cultural debris that weaken the business over time. A weak business, in any sense, is not one that people want to be part of. In creative consulting, an industry built on human capital—people are the only thing that really matter. If people don’t want to be part of your business, you won’t be in business for very long.

My advice to leaders: If you want to stay in business for the long run and attract and retain the best talent, think long and hard before you react—choose to see seemingly bad situations as opportunities to build and/or reinforce your creative and business cultures.

*It’s in my best interest not to share the letter at this time, apologies!

[1] “Bye Felicia” is a quote from the 1995 comedy film Friday; the phrase is often used online as a dismissive farewell. “Bye Felicia” was the Subject line of my colleague’s letter.