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Friday, September 15, 2020

Integrity Versus Manipulation

Doing the right thing from the wrong motives generally renders it useless. People judge motives as well as actions. If they suspect an ulterior motive, or some hidden agenda, they’re immediately on their guard. You will not be trusted if people suspect your praiseworthy words or actions stem from the wish to pull the wool over their eyes or sell them something.

Most employees have learned to suspect the motives of management precisely because they’ve been fooled before.
Suppose an organization decides to create a slower-paced, more humane working environment. If the people who work there suspect the true motive is to extract extra work by encouraging them to volunteer more input than management can persuade them to offer by open requests, the action will fail. The same will happen if the fine words about having more time to think and become creative aren’t matched by actions when things begin to get tough. No one likes to feel duped. Most employees have learned to suspect the motives of management precisely because they’ve been fooled before.

Here’s what Mark Goulston wrote in a recent ChangeThis manifesto:
Taking the time to learn the right thing to do in various circumstances—and then do it—is a matter of values more than anything else. If you value winning at any cost, how you play the game wonʼt matter. But putting value on being the best you can be, testing your mettle against the best opponents, and then becoming even better because of it results in your having a winning life.
Manipulation is rampant in management decisions and office politics. People just about always interpret it as dishonesty and react accordingly.
It’s said there are three statements in this world that are never true. They are: Many of the management fads and fashionable techniques around today are thinly-disguised ways of manipulating people to do what you want, when it is probably not in their own best interests to do so. Manipulation is rampant in management decisions and office politics. People just about always interpret it as dishonesty and react accordingly.

A key role of leadership is to create meaning: to give everyone involved in the organization a sense of purpose and direction.
Macho management is highly manipulative. It may be sometimes brutal and bullying, at other times full of appeals to heroic sentiments, but it is always about getting people to work harder and faster to benefit others—mostly the executives of the business and the shareholders: those who main source of income comes either directly from returns on share capital, or indirectly from the same source via incentives linked to increases in share valuation. Many leaders and managers have built their careers on acting tough, critical, and intimidating. Such inappropriate behavior is often reinforced because it offers a quick way to get others to do what the manager wants. When a manager threatens people, acts in menacing ways, or makes it clear they will suffer if they don't do this or that, employees usually do what is asked—even if it isn’t anything they believe in, or it makes no business sense.

A key role of leadership is to create meaning: to give everyone involved in the organization a sense of purpose and direction. But it isn’t the case that any meaning will do. Meaning needs to be based on values that people can trust and believe in; on stories that inspire, not tales of trickery and deceit, or examples of bullying. Some of today’s organizations are such horrible places to work that brute force is probably the only way to get anything done.

Take the findings, published in the British Medical Journal, from a study of nearly 3000 medical students from 16 medical schools (via Bob Sutton). It seems that 42 percent of seniors reported being harassed by fellow students, professors, physicians, or patients; 84 percent reported they had been belittled and 40 percent reported being both harassed and belittled. As Bob Sutton writes:
An earlier study of 594 “junior physicians” (similar to “residents” in the U.S.) in the United Kingdom found that 37% had been bullied in the prior year (especially by more senior physicians) and 84% indicated they had witnessed bullying that was aimed at fellow junior physicians. Nurses appear to have it especially bad, and unlike these medical students or residents, they don’t graduate to positions as doctors where they are relatively free from getting abuse, and apparently, also relatively free to dish it out.
I doubt that hospitals are any worse in this regard than many other types of organization. Bad behavior is often rewarded or tolerated, so, over time, it comes to corrupt the culture. Getting your own way in the short-term is often easier through using manipulative or autocratic means than any other way. That’s why today’s short-term, quick-results-obsessed businesses are so prone to falling into manipulative ways. They get quicker results—so long as you ignore the long-term effect on trust and corporate culture.

You must do the right thing for one reason only: because it’s the right thing to do.
The cure for manipulative management is simple to state, but harder to achieve. You must do the right thing for one reason only: because it’s the right thing to do. Leaders have ethical duties as well as all the others, and many management decisions are as much moral as economic. Many managers ignore this and try to absolve themselves from their ethical responsibilities by portraying every business decision as merely pragmatic. This cannot be done honestly. Life is a series of ethical choices, no less in business than anywhere else.


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Comments:
This can be summed up in one sentence:

"Blessed are those whose dreams are shaped by their faith and not their hurts"
 
Well, Deepak, I'm not sure whether you're hinting that I write too many words, but I'll go along with your summary in part. I think I'm more trying to say that doing something for the wrong reason, even if it seems beneficial in itself, robs it of value. Intent matters more than we usually realize.

Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it. Keep reading, please.
 
CC, I think one of the major reasons for the abundance of mis-management is the short-sighted view that executives have in the business. Corporations today rarely look out more than 4 months. And managers have to duck and weave to meet the short-term goals of somebody that wants to move up the corporate ladder. Once the 'bad decisions' of the manager and/or executive become apparent, one or both of them has already moved on to spread their 'wisdom' elsewhere either within the company or not.

I apologize for the long post, but I shall finish with the corporate motto that I learned while I was in the military:

We the willing,
Lead by the unknowing,
Are doing the impossible
For the ungrateful.
We've done so much,
For so long,
With so little,
We're now qualified to do anything,
With nothing.

Keep up the excellent work and I WILL keep coming back.

Sincerely,
Dan
 
Thanks, Dan. Great comment! I love your corporate motto.
 
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