Can The Ones You Trust Can Send You Bust?

“Trusting someone is like borrowing their parachute — hoping they packed it right. But watch out because sometimes, the ones you trust might just turn your safety net into a hammock, leaving you hanging and wondering if hitting the ground was part of their plan!”

– Peter Natterer

On 24 March 2015, Germanwings Flight 9525 took off from Barcelona–El Prat Airport in Spain, destination Düsseldorf Airport in Germany. It never arrived. The Airbus A320-211 was deliberately crashed into the French Alps northwest of Nice. All 150 passengers and crew aboard died.

The co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, unbeknownst to his employers, had been treated for suicidal tendencies and had been declared unfit to work by his doctor. Lubitz, on this fateful day, patiently waited for the Captain to exit the cockpit, quietly locked the cockpit door and then started a steady and deliberate final descent into the side of a French mountain.

Germanwings, an entity of Lufthansa, has since quietly rebranded.

In the realm of the workplace, when we bring new employees on board, we’re searching for a mix of skills, hard work, and intelligence. We count on these team members to use their talents to boost our organisation. But what if those qualities take a turn, and our teammates start using them against us?

That’s the flip side. It’s something known as an “insider threat.” When discussing what could go wrong, the human factor is always the wild card. People mostly start a job with great intentions and dreams of making a positive impact. But, as we know, things change. People change. Workplaces change. It’s a constantly shifting environment; sometimes, unintended consequences tag along for the ride.

It’s these changes that can stir up some trouble down the line.

In the everyday world of day-to-day business as usual, it’s easy to overlook how small shifts in the workplace can turn into big problems. You’ve got team members who were once on the same page but are now heading in different directions. The organisation itself might be evolving in unexpected ways. It’s in these moments that trouble can start brewing.

Equally, in the ever-shifting landscape of organisational dynamics, one of the most intriguing aspects arises when the organisation undergoes metamorphosis.

Initially aligned with the company’s values, goals, and culture, team members may find themselves adrift when faced with an organisation that no longer resembles the one that brought them on board.

Picture This:

An individual joins an organisation with a clear understanding of its mission, vision, and the shared values that underpin its identity. However, businesses, much like living entities, evolve. Changes in leadership, strategic pivots, cultural shifts, or responses to external forces can all contribute to a transformation in the organisational DNA.

As this evolution unfolds, a curious and sometimes unsettling phenomenon occurs. The very aspects that once drew individuals to the organisation, such as its mission, values, and modus operandi, may undergo alterations that render them unrecognisable. The workplace they embraced for its vision may start to blur into something unfamiliar.

For the employee, this can be akin to navigating uncharted territory. The cultural compass that once guided their professional journey might start pointing in different directions. The shared language and values that formed the bedrock of their commitment to the organisation may undergo shifts, leaving them feeling disconnected.

In such instances, questions naturally arise. Does the individual still resonate with the organisation’s mission? Are the changes congruent with their personal and professional values? Can they adapt to the evolving landscape, or does it create a sense of incongruity that raises doubts about their place within the organisation?

Opening The Gates To The Castle

Another angle in the maze of organisational dynamics is the possibility of individuals harbouring a sense of entitlement, perceiving themselves as indispensable or above the rules. This form of hubris, if left unchecked, can sow the seeds of discord and betrayal within the organisational fabric, especially when it takes on the insidious form of an insider threat.

When an individual within an organisation begins to feel entitled, believing their skills, position, or contributions grant them special privileges, it can bring trouble. If allowed to fester, the perception of one’s importance may diverge from the collective goals and values that bind a team or company together.

Consider the historical example of the betrayal of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.

In this instance, an individual, driven by a personal agenda and an inflated sense of importance, facilitated the downfall of an entire city by opening the gates from the inside.

Alexios Doukas, later known as Alexios IV Angelos, sought to secure his position on the Byzantine throne by colluding with the Crusaders. His perception of personal entitlement and the belief that his ambitions superseded the well-being of the entire city fuelled a betrayal that had far-reaching consequences, highlighting – literally – the insider threat from within.

Similarly, individuals who perceive themselves as indispensable in contemporary organisations may compromise the collective welfare for personal gain. Their sense of entitlement can manifest in actions detrimental to the organisation, eroding trust and cohesion.

Innocent But Still Deadly

In the complex interplay of organisational systems, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 stands as a powerful illustration of how seemingly innocent actions, when not fully thought through, can cascade into disaster. This incident is a stark reminder that unintended consequences stemming from decisions made with the best intentions can have profound and far-reaching impacts.

The Deepwater Horizon, an offshore drilling rig operated by British Petroleum (BP), was symbolic of cutting-edge technology aimed at resource extraction from the Gulf of Mexico’s depths. However, an innocuous sequence of decisions and actions set the stage for an environmental catastrophe. A crucial cement seal on the well failed, and the blowout preventer, a failsafe mechanism, malfunctioned. These were not deliberate acts of misconduct but rather innocent actions, individually reasonable but collectively leading to a catastrophic outcome.

The lesson from Deepwater Horizon is that “the path to disaster is often paved with good intentions”.

The individuals involved likely did not foresee the devastating consequences of their contributing actions. This scenario underscores the critical importance of thoroughly evaluating the potential ramifications of decisions, especially in complex and high-stakes environments.

Within organisations, the parallel is clear: innocent actions, if not carefully considered, can unravel into crises. The aftermath can be severe, whether it’s a lack of foresight, incomplete risk assessments, or a failure to anticipate how seemingly minor decisions can compound.

Key Takeaway

  • Organisational Evolution: Organisations are dynamic entities subject to constant change, driven by shifts in leadership, strategic pivots, and responses to external factors. This evolutionary process can transform the organisational DNA, altering core aspects such as mission, values, and operational approaches. The challenge arises when these changes diverge from the initial identity of the organisation, potentially causing dissonance among employees who joined with a specific understanding of the company’s essence.
  • Employee Disconnection: Amid organisational evolution, employees may find themselves adrift in unfamiliar terrain. As the workplace shifts, the cultural compass that once guided their professional journey may start pointing in different directions. This shift can lead to a sense of disconnection as shared language and values that formed the foundation of their commitment to the organisation undergo alterations. Questions emerge about alignment with the evolving mission and whether employees can adapt to the changing landscape, fostering a potential disconnect between individuals and the organisation.
  • Insider Threats: Insider threats highlight the potential dangers within an organisation when individuals develop a sense of entitlement, perceiving themselves as indispensable. If left unchecked, this audacity can lead to actions detrimental to the collective welfare of the organisation, eroding trust and cohesion.
  • Organisation Culture: The foundational importance of organisational culture, which initially attracts individuals to a particular workplace, changes over time. However, evolution in leadership, strategy, or culture can lead to a transformation that renders the organisation unrecognisable, potentially causing friction with employees’ personal and professional values. Maintaining a cohesive organisational culture is essential to prevent disconnection among employees and mitigate the risks associated with insider threats.
  • Trust or Bust: The tragic incident of Germanwings Flight 9525 underscores the potential consequences of trust breakdowns in employee screening and mental health support. The evolving nature of organisations can lead to a rupture in trust when changes are not communicated transparently, fostering a sense of disconnection among employees. The concept of insider threats becomes more pronounced in an environment where trust is lacking, as individuals may feel compelled to act against the organisation’s interests due to a perceived absence of trustworthiness. The Deepwater Horizon example is a stark reminder that even with good intentions, a lack of trust in decision-making processes and risk assessments can lead to catastrophic failures. In essence, the “Trust or Bust” lens reinforces the idea that organisational success hinges on establishing and maintaining trust, and any failure in this regard can amplify the risks associated with employee disconnection, insider threats, and unintended consequences.

How Can We Help?

Naked Insider emerges from a profound recognition of the imperative for organisations to safeguard themselves against the risks and harm that trusted individuals, whether through intentional actions or inadvertent missteps, can pose.

In the dynamic landscape of modern organisational life, where each entity grapples with unique challenges, the potential impact of insider threats cannot be understated.

Our genesis is rooted in the understanding that an organisation’s risk profile is as distinctive as its fingerprint. Naked Insider steps into this space as a beacon of expertise. Whether navigating the potential complexities of intentional wrongdoing or addressing the unintended consequences of innocent actions, we bring a nuanced understanding to the forefront.

In a world where the consequences of insider threats can be profound and far-reaching, our mission is clear: to provide expert guidance on the best strategies for protecting your organisation’s critical assets both now and in the future.

We recognise that mitigating these risks requires more than a one-size-fits-all approach. It demands a deep dive into the intricacies of your organisation’s structure, culture, and operations.

Naked Insider is not just a consultancy. It is a dedicated partner committed to walking alongside you on the journey to fortify your organisation’s resilience.

Our team of seasoned professionals brings a wealth of experience in understanding the nuances of insider threats, ensuring that our advice is comprehensive and tailored to your specific needs.

As we navigate the complex terrain of organisational risks, let Naked Insider be your trusted ally in charting the best course forward. Our commitment is to empower your organisation with the insights and strategies needed to navigate the delicate balance between trust and protection, ensuring a secure future for your critical assets.

Your next best step is to book a complimentary consultation with a representative from Naked Insider.