Top Workplace Training Takeaways from Waystar Royco

May 16, 2023 | What's Hot | 7 min read

Is anyone else watching Succession? Currently streaming its fourth – and final – season on HBO Max, Succession is an incredible series to add to your list of shows to binge watch. Trust me.

The show is about a fictional media empire and the complex dynamics of a family-owned business. And while it might not directly address the topic of workplace training and education, it does provide valuable insights into the consequences of ignoring rules as well as the importance of ethical behavior in business.

Here’s a quick plot synopsis:

  • Media conglomerate Waystar Royco is a family-owned business.
  • Logan Roy is the CEO of Waystar Royco and the head of the Roy family.
  • Throughout the series, other members of the Roy family vie for control of the company – engaging in unethical behavior in the process.

From the illegal wiretapping of a competitor’s phone line to characters sifting through the personal belongings of others and accessing private computer files, many of the “business” decisions depicted in the show are clear compliance breaches. They violate privacy laws, damage the company’s reputation, and lead to legal repercussions. As a result, Waystar Royco faces an investigation by regulatory authorities, which could result in hefty fines and further damage to the company’s reputation.

Learning to Do “The Right Thing”

So, what can we learn from the plot of Succession? For me, the show reinforces the importance of training your employees to do “the right thing.”

What does it mean to do the right thing? Everyone’s answer to that question is different. Which is why — to maintain ethical and legal compliance — an organization and its leaders must define “the right thing” for employees. That means articulating standards, explaining what you believe, and defining how you conduct business.

Following are some compliance courses that employees of Waystar Royco could really benefit from as they navigate what’s right – and what’s not quite right – at work.

Waystar Royco uses bribery to secure contracts in foreign countries. The use of bribery not only puts the company at risk of legal consequences, but it also damages its reputation and undermines its credibility.

Not to mention, bribery violates the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) which prohibits companies from paying bribes to foreign officials to gain a business advantage.

Succession depicts characters engaging in various forms of financial misconduct, such as hiding payments or misrepresenting the nature of transactions. If these actions were real and occurred within a company subject to the FCPA, they could potentially violate the law. The FCPA requires companies to disclose information about their operations and financial performance.

The characters on Succession are seen withholding information from shareholders and engaging in insider trading. Insider trading is a serious offence that can result in significant penalties and legal consequences for individuals and the companies with which they are associated.

Effective insider training courses help employees to identify examples of inside information; the potential consequences of unlawful insider dealing for both companies and individuals; and the consequences for individuals and companies involved in insider dealing and recognize how to avoid them. Courses should also educate learners how to recognize circumstances in which an insider can legally trade securities.

Throughout the series, several characters engage in harassing behaviors that include sexual harassment, bullying, and verbal abuse. Logan Roy, for example, regularly belittles and demeans his children and other members of the Waystar Royco business – showcasing cutthroat and toxic corporate culture where harassment and abuse are prevalent.

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Harassment in the workplace can affect any employee, regardless of the organization they work for. All companies are responsible for creating an environment free from harassment, and in most countries, the law requires employers to take significant measures to prevent harassment. After all, harassment can result in costly legal claims, including lawsuits and settlements, and it can impact employee morale and productivity.

Employees who experience harassment may feel demotivated or pull away from their work due to fear, leading to decreased productivity and increased rates of absenteeism and turnover. Bottom line? Workplace harassment is bad for business. And businesses can start to address this by building a culture of inclusivity that puts a stop to this behavior.

The Importance of Preventing Unethical Behavior at Work

The episodes of Succession illustrate the consequences of ignoring regulations and employment law. While the examples in the television show are fictional, this type of unethical behavior could – and often does – happen in real life.

Compliance training helps by educating employees about the laws and regulations that govern their work, as well as the consequences of violating them. It can also empower employees to understand the importance of ethical behavior in business, including how it benefits the company and its stakeholders.

In Succession, the consequences of unethical behavior are severe, leading to legal and reputational damage, loss of trust, and (spoiler alert!) Waystar Royco’s downfall. Compliance training can help prevent such consequences by ensuring employees understand the importance of following rules and regulations and acting ethically in all aspects of their work, while leadership training can help your leaders develop the power skills they need to build a psychologically safe culture at work.

The Impact of Leadership on Ethics

Perhaps the most important way to do this is to effectively train your leaders. Compliance programs require strong leadership to be successful – and this requires effective education. But where do you start?

There’s no time like the present to embrace the idea of ethical leadership. Here are some ways to incorporate it into your corporate culture today:

Be a role model. Show your team what good behavior looks like. Often, people won’t recognize it until they see it firsthand. Good role models live at all levels of an organization.

Encourage learning and transparency. Don’t hide your mistakes. Learn from them and share them with others so they don’t have to learn the hard way. Create a culture where people are comfortable sharing their missteps.

Learn about psychological safety here.

Provide opportunities and feedback. Challenge your team with respect to ethical leadership. Give them opportunities to be role models, themselves. What is working well, what can they do better?

Reward progress over perfection. Establish a growth mindset. Ensure that your team understands that we are all a work in progress, and we can only do the best we can do on the journey we are on.

Create a safe space. Managers must provide employees the time to process and ask questions. They need to create a safe space so that the team can think critically about the situation they are facing, take a moment to weigh possible outcomes, and then act accordingly.

What’s the bottom line? Toxic workplace cultures share some common traits. They are typically observed in organizations with a lack of role models, where there is no safe space, and it is not okay to be vulnerable or ask questions. A toxic workplace culture is a result of a failure in leadership, and it is very likely to lead to a compliance failure.

In Succession, most ethical failures stemmed from the behavior of family patriarch, Logan Roy. Imagine if Roy had access to Skillsoft’s extensive course library?

Skillsoft offers legal compliance training, workplace safety training, leadership and business skills, and even leadership coaching!

Coaching Your Leaders on Ethical Leadership

Leadership coaching is an important way to ensure that your employees are actively working to develop leadership skills such as communication, decision-making, and strategic planning, which can enhance their ability to drive your organization forward.

The Roy family c-suite is not the only group that benefits from professional leadership coaching! To retain top talent and maintain a strong talent pipeline, businesses must prioritize the development of all employees throughout their organization.

Skillsoft Coaching allows businesses to deliver executive-quality leadership coaching at scale in order to develop the behaviors and skills needed to lead successfully.

Here’s how it works:

  • Tap into a global network of hundreds of executive coaches across six continents speaking more than 20 languages.
  • Provide your employees with personalized coaching experiences where they work one-on-one with a coach to define their goals and develop strategies tailored to their needs.
  • Drive behavioral change and accelerate leadership development with customizable assessments, personalized guidance, and action plans.
  • Track coaching engagements, satisfaction, and performance across all employees to drive measurable business impact.
  • Leverage video sessions and in-app messaging to drive engagement, enablement, and measurable improvement.

So, how about it? Are you ready to mitigate risk by developing your organization’s leaders? Let’s show the “Logan Roys” of the world how it is done.