The TSA Blame Game: All Roads Lead to the Top

Many times when an organization spirals into dysfunction, the public might read or hear about it, but doesn’t feel the pain directly.

AirplaneIn the case of the current TSA debacle, millions of travelers feel the TSA failures up close and personally.

Long lines, hours of waiting, missing flights, angry travelers, testimonies before Congress.

While an increase of travelers, budget cuts, turnover and under staffing are factors driving the TSA issues, employees say the root cause is leadership and culture.

Quotes from employees who testified at the House Oversight and Government Reform remind us that when trouble bubbles, responsibility lies with those at the top.

“These leaders are some of the biggest bullies in government.” 

“Ours is a culture of misconduct, retaliation, lack of trust, cover-ups and the refusal to hold … senior leaders accountable for poor judgement and malfeasance.

“When hardworking rank-and-file men and women are severely punished, yet their managers get off easy, it creates a morale problem. And allowing such a culture to fester has a highly detrimental effect on the mission of the agency — keeping the airways safe.”

While the TSA issues are visible and headline-worthy, they aren’t so unusual.

I’ve seen many clients throw people and dollars at the problem-of-the-day, hoping “extra resources” will fix it.

The only way to neutralize a toxic culture, and the inevitable business problems that result, is to head straight to the source — the leaders at the top.

Marta Steele is a partner @People_Results. Connect with her on Twitter @MartaSteele.