Sky Sports: corporate culture plays tricks on you

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GREAT PORTLAND STREET — I’ve got nothing new to add to the sexism discussion at Sky Sports… except for those who think the lads were just having a laugh, or boys will be boys, it is worth taking the sobering “Sexism at work” test found in today’s Independent (sadly not available online).

What I am more interested in today is a little discussed part of the story.

The story is that two football reporters have left Sky Sports after sexist remarks made off-air about a female line judge.  They were later backed up with other examples of bad behaviour.

Yesterday one of the two, Richard Keys, was on local talk radio station TalkSport, and said:

“Our prehistoric banter is not acceptable in a modern world, I accept that. We got it wrong. We failed to change while everything was changing about us but one of the reasons is that we liked to have what is described as prehistoric banter.”

“We [Sky] have grown up with nobody liking us. We are a little bit like Wimbledon – we have to upset people along the way to get noticed.”

And that is an interesting point, because very few outsiders with a knowledge of one of Britain’s biggest broadcaster (and it’s total lock on football and pay-television audiences) would see them as scrappy upstarts.  Last year British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) turned over more than £5 billion.  The business has been running as BSkyB for more than 20 years and is an integral part of British life.

Each company tells stories about itself that become the norm.  At one of my old firms it was about the CEO who played guitar every year at the Christmas party.  But the stories we tell about our companies often define and reflect the culture of an organisation.

So a business that believes “nobody likes us”.  And then says “we have to upset people along the way to get noticed.”

That is going to make people behave in a certain way, isn’t it?

It implies a corporate motto of: “everybody hates us, but we don’t care…”

And there is no way that you can lay the blame for that culture solely at the feet of the two men in the frame.

Corporate culture is driven by some very clear and simple things.  At Sky Sports — like many other businesses — they haven’t paid enough attention to the organisational culture… and “the way we do things around here” has caused them all this pain.


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