Hypocrisy can be real or apparent. Hypocrisy occurs when a member of management contradicts or ignores management direction without consequence. It can be appearance rather than reality when communications between management and employees are lacking, though this is just as damaging as if it was really occurring. Poor communications leave employees to speculate about what management is thinking, planning, and doing, and why they are being given the directions they’re receiving. If these things (who, what, when, how, and especially why) are not communicated clearly and routinely, workers will start guessing and passing around perceptions and ideas as to what management is planning or doing, and it is easy for the speculations to become pessimistic and negative. The fact that a management team allows an information gap to exist between itself and employees will be the first strike against it, and one or more managers ignoring or flaunting the directions the management team is giving employees will sour the company culture in potentially disastrous ways that can undermine change initiatives as well as ongoing operations.
Plans and reasons for change must be clearly communicated. When a company is trying to improve its “game” to deal with competitive threats or business environment changes, for example, management will need to direct systemic changes, in other words, changes in the way things are done. Employees usually interpret management direction as rules. If the company leadership allows executives to do whatever they want, or if any managers think themselves above the rules, the desired changes will be severely undermined when employees realize there is a double standard around management direction. Employees will quickly lose faith in not only the commitment of management to the changes but also in the intelligence and value of their managers, and thereafter will only half-heartedly support needed changes and new initiatives. This will cause significantly poorer compliance with the changes and result in increased mistakes, wasted time sorting out the details of what should be changed, wasted time and funds required to correct mistakes, and generally worse results than the organization produced before the changes.
Management integrity is of paramount importance to organization performance. A lack of integrity or appearance thereof on the part of management can sap the positive energy in an organization and lead to increased cost and poorer product and service quality as employees become angry and confused about what to do or simply give up caring about the results. The lack of faith in management will drive out the best employees as they will find jobs elsewhere, creating a “brain drain” in the organization, and those workers who stay can develop a persistent negative outlook on management and the company’s future that will be hard to shake. Costs will increase and productivity will fall with employee loyalty and commitment until top management corrects the situation, restores order and integrity to the management team, and demonstrates to employees its understanding of and commitment to a principled approach to business. An important element of the correction is the closing of any communication gaps. When employees feel the same standards apply to them and management alike, that they are being listened to by management, and that they are being informed of the details of the company’s challenges and plans as well as why changes are being made, they can be engaged in helping make those changes and the company successful. With one or more managers hypocritically placing themselves above the rules and when employees feel they are being kept in the dark, the business and everyone in it is bound to suffer.
Have you experienced a situation like this with your employer? Please tell us what you observed and felt, and what the outcome was as far as company results or any other outcomes. Thanks for reading — Tim