Run a ‘hypocrisy check’

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

by Morey Stettner

There’s nothing worse for a manager than appearing hypocritical to employees. If they conclude that you say one thing and do another, they will decide that your words mean nothing.

It’s one of the top reasons professional sports coaches get the ax. The manager of a baseball team loses credibility in the clubhouse by insisting, “I treat everyone equally,” and then gives the superstar slugger a free pass to skip practices.

It can happen to you, too. You may not even realize you’re being hypocritical.

Here’s an example. I know a director of operations at a big financial services firm who wanted his staff to keep costs under control. For the past year, he repeatedly told his troops, “In a recession, cash is king.”

His goal was to rally them to squeeze maximum value out of every dollar of the company’s money. He didn’t want them to waste resources.

Yet throughout 2009, he developed a reputation as a spendthrift. He held retreats for top salespeople at ritzy resorts. He installed surveillance cameras to prevent theft (employees viewed the monitors as a waste and figured their boss didn’t trust them). He attended a four-week management program at a prestigious business school (at the company’s expense).

He had no idea that these actions hurt him. The retreats, he told me, are “a necessary part of rewarding top producers.” The cameras seemed like a sensible investment that would save more in reduced theft than they cost to install. And his boss asked him to attend the four-week course.

Nevertheless, the cumulative effect of his behavior was a restive, rebellious workforce. They stopped heeding his directives and morale plummeted. He was recently transferred to a less powerful position within the company. He’s no longer on the CEO track.

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