No matter what, focus on your culture in all decisions you make.

If you’re like a lot of people and companies right now, you have uncertainty as we reach the re-open/halfway open/thinking about opening/can we survive until we try and open stage?–or whatever stage you’re in today of Covid-19.

As individuals and as companies, we’ll look different, be different, and think differently.  There’s no way around that, as Covid-19 has been a life-changing, game-changing time for all of us.

I’ve talked with a wide range of people in the last few weeks–some entrepreneurs who were caught completely unprepared for the crisis because they never got online, people whose business models are no longer operative because of health concerns (how would you like to own a business heavily reliant on buffets right now?), or those who have laid off longtime employees.

One friend who was forced to lay off numerous people began our conversation with the predictable–it was all about reducing costs, he said.  He hated doing it, as any good employer should.  But layoffs are sadly sometimes necessary. I understood that.

So I pushed him a little more.  “WHO did you lay off?”, I said.  He began to talk about numbers, but I nudged him toward the values part of the equation. And I quickly realized he hadn’t considered it at all.  And he soon realized that he hadn’t thought once about what happens when the company reopens in a new and dramatically changed form, but without some of the key ‘glue’ employees who have kept the company together.

At a time of crisis, he saw only dollar signs when making some of his staff choices instead of dedication and doers.

So now, as we come out of a very difficult time, he has a mix of some fine employees that remain, but others that are uncommitted, or troublemakers.  And troublemakers in a culture have a ripple effect. They make life miserable for good employees, hurt productivity, heighten legal risk, and harm company reputations. Plus, at a time when organizations need to be focused, they drain energy like few people can.

As you rebuild, retool and refocus, money is always going to be a factor , but cultural and values fit should be just as important. Don’t make the mistake of having “cheap” trump your standards and values when it comes to personnel decisions.

Who do you trust during these difficult times? Who do you want in that proverbial ‘foxhole’ with you as you’re struggling to keep the company afloat? Who will you trust when you need a break from the stress?

As we get back to whatever normal is going to be and tough choices may still need to be made, think carefully about who should be on your team. It may be the most important professional decision you’ll ever make. Focus on culture.

Pete Havel is a speaker, trainer, and consultant on workplace culture and leadership. He speaks and consults for organizations ranging from law enforcement agencies to Fortune 500 companies.  He’s also the author of “The Arsonist in the Office: Fireproofing Your Life Against Toxic Coworkers, Bosses, Employees, and Cultures,” named as a #1 Hot New Release by Amazon. It’s available at Pete can be reached at and 214-244-7906. You’ll also find more information on him at




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