Writing in defence of hypocrisy would be like expressing sympathy
for the devil, you’re not going to convince anyone that it’s anything
other than despicable. And yet hypocrisy exists in every organisation
for a very good reason. It occurs whenever decisions and actions are
inconsistent or conflict with previously stated ideals, values or
performance measures. This inconsistency is not necessarily a bad
thing. Being hypocritical might be the only way organisation’s and
their senior managers can operate given the often contradictory
demands they face.
I worked in local government for many years and I frequently heard
managers complain of the hypocrisy of local councillors, they would
give examples of a councillor voting in favour of a proposal to close
libraries as part of budget savings plan or build an industrial
incinerator as part of a wast disposal strategy only for the same
councillor to lead a public protest against this happening in their
ward. The explanation was the different roles councillors perform
which some times conflict. In voting for the strategy they were acting
as loyal party members supporting an action they genuinely believed to
be in the best interests of the county. In leading the public
opposition to these measures in their local ward they were acting on
behalf of the local constituents they were elected to represent.
Before everyone had mobile phones office staff were under strict
instructions not to make personal calls. At regular intervals line
managers would remind staff of this instruction. Following one such
occasion I and the rest of the team heard through the managers open
door his lengthy conversation booking the family holiday! The one rule
for employees and another for managers is not a new phenomenon.
One area where the charge of hypocrisy is most frequently brought
against organisations and their senior managers is that of Equality
and Diversity. Perhaps it is not surprising that there is often such a
glaring gap between the rhetoric and the reality when the organisation
makes such grand sounding statements about inclusion and promoting
anti racist practise yet fails to meet its own recruitment targets,
puts barriers in the way of employees attending the Black workers
support group, decides not to make the Unconscious Bias training
mandatory for managers and decides interview panels balanced in terms
of race and gender is impractical. Or simply allows senior managers to
bypass the formal recruitment procedures.
Most organisations talk a lot about valuing their employees and yet
take a business decision to impose less favourable terms and
conditions of employment. Or as in the recent case of NHS staff fail
to match the rhetoric in the pay award.
Whether it’s the public sector or the commercial and business sector
financially driven decisions and pragmatism often out weigh
aspirational aims, ethical considerations and professional values.
Resulting in accusations of hypocrisy.
Blair McPherson former Director, Author And Blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk