A mature man dressed formally in a suit wearing glasses with a sceptical expression Finally the signs of change in work culture.

Finally: The Signs of Change in Work Culture

What a difference a week makes. And the revelations of the last six days will take several moments for the world of business to absorb signs of potential work culture change. Yes, I’m referring to the saga that is Open AI. Let’s have an interruption of the scheduled Ethical Insight as we look into the signs of an internal community in existence and potential work culture change.

When last did you hear of a CEO being fired, only to have the workforce send a letter to the board with two simple demands:
  • Get back our CEO
  • You leave.
I’m referring to the recent situation with OpenAI, the artificial intelligence research company. Last week, OpenAI’s board voted to oust CEO Sam Altman without providing a reasonable response to the world much less to employees. In response, 747 members of OpenAI’s team (97% of the workforce) signed a letter demanding Altman be reinstated and the board members who fired him resign. An unprecedented show of unity demonstrating shifting work culture norms.

Demanding Accountability - A Work Culture Change

The Board's Stunning Overreach

Usually, when a board takes action there may be a few grumbles and tears. As the company’s demigods, no one openly questions or challenges them. but this was a shocking work culture change. It took four board members to kick the co-founders out of their own company. Then reluctant to go into details for such drastic action, they faced a backlash; the first sign of an inherent culture change.  

Eroding Authority in the Modern Workplace

Where senior members of a company have no engagement with the employees, their removal causes no feathers to be ruffled. However, this event showed distant shareholders and boards no longer wield the clout they once did over an organisation’s work culture. Attending the Annual General Meeting  AGM) or the occasional site visit means nothing. In comparison, directors seen working alongside the team, build real relationships beyond reading a name on an ID card and a handshake is the foundation for driving work culture change. 

Demands for Transparency Fuel Change

The “vague statement” excuse doesn’t work in a transparent world where information spreads instantly. People demanded the truth, as they were invested not only in the company but the leaders nurturing their growth.  This could be the catalyst for this work culture change. 

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Purpose-Driven Leadership Fuels Work Culture Change

Whereas once an ousted CEO would exist under a cloud of doubt, this was a shocking work culture change. OpenAI’s biggest investor welcomed the fired CEO Sam Altman, offering him carte blanche to have his own set up in-house.
Investors typically follow the money. Yet the board seemed oblivious that true investor loyalty tracked Altman’s purpose-driven leadership driving OpenAI’s flourishing work culture.  It reinforces the old expression – people invest in people, not companies. 
The board misjudged where employee allegiance lay, likely underestimating Altman’s active role in nurturing OpenAI’s tight-knit work culture. Their overconfidence in traditional authority backfired in this work culture change, with the biggest investor defecting alongside the ousted CEO.
From the outside, Altman is portrayed as more than just a figurehead CEO.  His purpose-driven leadership inspired extraordinary loyalty, catalysing dramatic work culture change.

Is Your Company's Culture Ready for Work Culture Change?

Book a "Humming Session" to Find Out

Don’t let your company get blindsided by unseen work culture changes happening all around you. Schedule a revitalising one-hour “Humming Session” with The Ethical Strategist to talk through your company’s culture strength and readiness to adapt and thrive should there be disruption.

Money Alone Can't Curate an Authentic Work Culture

This OpenAI saga marked one of the first times witnessing a company’s culture unison in the face of adverse work culture change.   At Twitter (now X) the chaos created an open recruitment frenzy, with employees offered salary matches to defect as the CEO exited.
The knee-jerk response was the same old solution – throw money at the problem. Perhaps cash worked for the 3% minority, but authentic work cultures aren’t commodities you can simply purchase. Over 700 OpenAI employees signing a petition to reinstate leadership demonstrated their being a bonafide, anti-fragile internal community.

Cultivating Real Trust and Loyalty

You can’t buy that level of unity and trust overnight. It takes consistent nurturing over the years, with as much focus on people-building as any other business operation. Work cultures that withstand work culture change emerge from setting clear, empowering HouseRules that align your team behind your company’s greater purpose.

By intentionally developing HouseRules tailored to your unique vision and values, you proactively mould the resilient internal community to navigate inevitable market disruptions.

Getting lost in the crowd is not necessary a bad thing when that's in your business, amongst your people.

Underestimating Workforce Unity Risks Failure in Work Culture Change

A Uplifting End to the OpenAI Saga

This OpenAI saga had an uplifting ending, with the CEO returning and workers celebrating their role in driving work culture change. Though it seemed not a “battle” per se, but rather that unified internal community showing public solidarity during a trying week. It also allowed a purging of those out-of-step with the company’s cherished values – in this case, the very board itself.

The Power of a True Internal Community

The cohesive support OpenAI employees demonstrated stems from the strong internal community model advocated at CAS Ltd. The HouseRules method is aligning policies and culture operations behind a shared mission and values. With this foundation, individuals invest not just for a paycheck, but in the company’s greater purpose and leadership nurturing their personal growth.

When Authority is Weakened by Cultural Disconnect


While the board had the authority to terminate the CEO, they critically underestimated OpenAI’s internal community power. This behind-the-scenes view revealed that authority alone lacks force without genuine loyalty. An engaged workforce united by purpose can even overcome a board during transformative work culture changes.

Build Resilience Through Collaborative HouseRules


Every company should develop trust and a common cause that galvanises people to take unified action. Implementing HouseRules provides the collaborative structure to build an exceptional level of interdependency alignment and community resilience, able to withstand and capitalise on work culture change.

If you’re now thinking about the alignment between leadership and culture within your own organisation, you can always book your free consultation. We can examine ways to strengthen employee engagement through  HouseRules.

Time is precious and I appreciate you spending yours with me. If something in this piece resonated or you want to share, don’t hesitate to reach out. Until next do all you can to enjoy la dolce vita.

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