“Don’t Be a Hypocrite – or Maybe, Yes, Go Ahead”
by Olga Torres
Bretta looked at her boss, smiled, and said kindly, “Thank you for the recognition,” while at the same time feeling a cringe in her stomach. What Bretta really wanted to say to her boss would have gotten her fired. An expression of her true feelings would clearly be defined as a breach of employee conduct, resulting in a violation of every moral, ethical, and organizational guideline. And it could have gotten her fired. In this case, Bretta instead decided to take the high road.
Corporate and office buildings could be considered employee containers, as they are filled by employees who produce for someone else in exchange for payment. As do all humans, employees have feelings, thoughts, expressions, and characters. Along with performing work-related tasks and daily duties, employees are expected to behave in a fashion that does not interrupt productivity. But it’s because humans populate these employee containers, everyday disagreements occasionally flourish, whether they are for personal or work-related reasons. While we may hear of an occasional uproar, isn’t it surprising that we don’t hear of them more often?
Employee dynamics are ever present inside every employee container. If anything, the curiosity question should be, How is it that there aren’t more interruptions and disruptions amongst employee? The answer: HYPOCRISY! Yes, hypocrisy is the word. This word, with its many negative connotations, may, in reality, be the savior of organizations. While examining this word brings darkness, betrayal, and negativity to the forefront, the true question is, Is examining these human characteristics really so negative?
This word and the action known as hypocrisy may have saved millions of dollars for organizations, not to mention all the paperwork resulting from lawsuits. For each hypocrisy in action, there is one less report to HR, one more saved job, the cushioned feelings of someone who could have felt worse, and better still, the prevention of a potential lawsuit.
While there is no defense for hypocrisy – as most people have been taught to be honest – corporate hypocrisy seems to have more to do with timing and feelings. Hypocrisy is not about lying to cover up an unethical or immoral breach, but rather to soften negative feelings among employees. Hypocrisy isn’t covered in the employee manual, but employees know it exists. And it may well be the key to keeping organizations in business. Like all humans, employees change – and although today a negative feeling may have erupted, that feeling might have disappeared in a couple weeks. And thanks to hypocrisy, no one was hurt because of it.
With regard to Bretta, she went home with her recognition, her supervisor went home happy, and at the end of the day everyone prospered. So next time you think about hypocrisy, think of it as a tool that can smooth over difficult situations.
Olga Torres is a doctoral candidate in Performance Psychology with a focus on Industrial Organization.