It’s ironic really. Only a week or two ago there were celebrations in the UK as the “Only one year to go” countdown to the Olmpics began. The rhetoric is of “the best games ever” and “legacy opportunities for the whole country”. There was a sense of optimism and excitement as millions of people waited to hear which events they had secured tickets for. And I sensed a feeling of anticipation, looking forward to the competition to come.

Last Saturday, it seems as though all of that was shattered in one night of rioting, which was then followed by three more nights of rioting that has spread widely across the country. I hope and pray that tonight doesn’t turn into a fifth night, and that the news that the police are to be given access to more resources for tackling criminal behaviour will be enough to keep thugs and hooligans off the streets. And maybe the rain will help too…

Of course, we’ve been here before, so it’s tempting to wonder what, if anything, we have learned? There’s always a lot said on these occasions, much of it generating more heat than light. There are those who blame the government cuts, and those who blame the tragic shooting of Mark Duggan, and then there’s the question of poverty and lack of opportunity. All of these are important issues, and they are rightly discussed and demonstrated about – that’s one of the great privileges of living in our democracy.

However, let me be clear – if controversial: This current spate of riots has nothing to do with any of those factors. They are the simple result of criminal behaviour, which has seen gangs of criminals capitalising on a ‘strength in numbers’ opportunity to line their own pockets and get a free update on clothing and household goods. It is a simple case of willful, random destruction and looting that has become increasingly orchestrated. In every case of a crime committed, it is the result of a conscious choice of behaviour by the perpetrator – which will result in punishment through the due process of law when they are caught.

It’s what happens when all respect for law and order, and community, and work, has been replaced by unadulterated selfishness and greed. It is tragic for those people who have lost their homes and their livelihood. And this can happen on a smaller, less dramatic scale in organisations too. When employee’s lose respect for their colleagues, their managers and their company, their behaviour changes to reflect their ‘mood’. They become disengaged; performance drops and conflict often increases. Happily, this doesn’t generally tend to result in riots in the workplace! But it’s equally destructive, albeit in a different way. In the early stages it will only be evident to those close to it, but ultimately, it will become evident for all to see – including customers and shareholders.

So what can be done?

As with any situation where there is disaffection, questions must be asked to identify causes. But let’s not forget that every employee’s behaviour is their own conscious choice, and therefore their own responsibility. When that behaviour is positive and constructive, it should be rewarded; when it is destructive and damaging to the business performance, that behaviour must be challenged – constructively, but robustly.

Imagine how much your business’ performance could be increased if there was a culture of challenge, to help everyone maximise their contribution and engagement!

Finally – it’s probably worth mentioning that the views expressed here are my own, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of others from Emenex!

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