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Are organisations inevitably hypocritical?

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger
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.

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