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Workplace expert discusses culture, leadership in Wells Fargo scandal

Jaclyn Jensen
Jaclyn Jensen of DePaul's Driehaus College of Business can discuss workplace leadership and culture.
CHICAGO—Jaclyn Jensen studies why things can go awry in the workplace. An organizational psychologist, Jensen’s research examines negative employee experiences, with a focus on employee mistreatment, conflict, destructive relationships and hostile work conditions. The company culture at Wells Fargo & Co. is under scrutiny after it was revealed that its employees opened unauthorized bank accounts to meet sales goals. Jensen, associate professor of management in DePaul University’s Driehaus College of Business, provides insight on how company culture and poor leadership may have contributed to the scandal at Wells Fargo.

Jensen is available for interviews and can be reached at 312-362-6852 or

 Q: What does the Wells Fargo scandal reveal about employee reward systems?

Jensen: Fallout from the recent Wells Fargo scandal makes the case that reward systems in organizations can drive dysfunctional, unethical behavior. For example, when organizations want employees to set challenging “stretch” goals, but reward only those employees who “make the numbers” in a timely fashion, it is not surprising that employees engage in inappropriate behavior. At Wells Fargo, rewarding staff for cross-selling drove employees to create phony accounts, which made it appear as though staff had met sales targets.

Q: What other organizations have had similar issues?

Jensen: A similar situation occurred at the Department of Veterans Affairs, when staff manipulated patient scheduling to meet operational goals, and at Comcast when a retention agent went to extreme lengths to keep a customer from canceling his service, resulting in a public relations nightmare for the company.

Q: What do these incidents reveal about leadership and an organization’s culture?

Jensen: Collectively, these examples shine a bright spotlight on culture and rewards, and the critical role leaders play in setting the tone around proper conduct. Saying that “there was no incentive to do bad things,” according to Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, and that employees who created phony accounts weren’t honoring the bank’s culture, suggests he may be out of touch with the exact culture he was tasked to create.


Jaclyn Jensen

Media contact:
Kristin Mathews