Hypocrisy – The Engagement Killer


A couple of weeks ago, I introduced the topic of Workforce Zombies. I shared three tips that will help you transform yourself into an engaged and inspired employee. But what can you do if you are surrounded by zombies in the workforce? How can you engage and inspire your colleagues?

Thousands of books, articles, and blog posts have been written on this topic. We debate the reasons that employees are disengaged. The workforce sites poor management and questionable policies. Employees blame working conditions or unclear priorities. And, we accuse a lack of balance or general disregard for our welfare.

I contend that perceived hypocrisy is the root cause of all such factors. It’s what I refer to as Zombie fuel. I define it as a state where professed values differ from demonstrated behaviors.

Are Your Values and Behaviors Aligned?

Do you profess collaboration as a core value, yet work behind closed doors? Do you value accountability, yet show up late for every meeting? Or do you profess healthy balance as a priority, yet demand night and weekend work?

In the vast majority of cases, the hypocrisy that exists within organizations is not intentional or malicious. Rather, it most often reflects the lack of a shared understanding. Employees hold different standards by which they assess the demonstration of the organization’s core values.

If I tell you that “Respect” is a core value of our organization, what does that mean in terms of employee management? Does “Respect” mean that we provide employees every opportunity to learn and improve? Or do we “Respect” the workforce by confronting employee problems in a timely and direct manner?

Historically, one of the lowest scoring responses on the government’s Federal Employee Viewpoint provides insight into the potential impact of such unclear expectations. In 2019, only 34% of federal employees agreed that steps will be taken to deal with an employee who cannot or will not improve.

What Can You Do?

If as Peter Drucker says, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” why would you have a Strategic Plan but not have a Culture Plan. In an effort to minimize the detrimental impact of hypocrisy, I encourage you to develop an Intentional Culture Plan. Here are a couple simple steps to get you started.

  1. Define Your Values – If you have not already, engage your team to define the core values by which you will hold each other accountable. Select three to five values that serve to differentiate your team in service to your stakeholders and colleagues.
  2. Articulate Behaviors – Brainstorm with your team to define the expected behaviors that represent the application of the value (and those behaviors that do not). Group like statements and vote to embrace four to six behaviors that the team adopts for each value.
  3. Establish Rituals – Intentionally define daily, weekly, monthly, and/or yearly rituals that represent a tangible, recurring application of your core values. I typically recommend that teams adopt eight to twelve rituals that further reflect the values.

As a simple example, we established integrity as a differentiating core value within the organization that I lead. One of four associated behaviors, is to “honor our wholeness.” Via this behavior, we promote the well-being and balance of our colleagues. On a weekly basis, we embrace a ritual known as “Analog Time.” This is a two-hour window during normal working hours that any staff member is offline. We use this time to promote personal well-being. We recognize that a healthy, engaged, and inspired workforce is good business.

Next Steps

No matter where you sit in your organization, you have an opportunity to influence culture. Whether you lead your family, a team of ten, an office of hundreds, or agency of thousands, I encourage you to develop an Intentional Culture Plan. Check out our ongoing webinar series to learn how: www.ceekllc.com/webinars. (Register now, and you will receive access to video recordings of earlier sessions.)

Minimize the degree of hypocrisy. Clarify and align behavioral expectations with your values. Comment here or email me directly if you desire more information on how you can build your own Intentional Culture Plan.

Once you minimize the one element that most commonly destroys engagement, you are now in a position to inspire and promote even higher levels of engagement. Check in next week as I share tips to do that by drawing the passion out of yourself and your colleagues. Until then, CEEK a Better Way.