Avoiding a Culture of Cheating

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It’s an unfortunate truth, but some people feel the need to cheat or fudge the results in order to meet the expectations of their leadership team.

There have been press stories recently about people who have been less than honest with quality control reports, and you may have seen evidence in your own organization of people altering their results to avoid being punished.

Why is it that some workplaces possess an environment where people feel the need to cheat?

Whether it’s cheating at school or cheating in the workplace, at its core, it comes down to the pressure that people feel to produce results. Unfortunately, some feel acting dishonestly outweighs the potential of having to face apparent consequences.

As a front line leader, you need to take the time to examine your own behaviors when your team isn’t hitting the mark. The truth is, the more heavy-handed you are in criticizing or handing out punishment, the more likely it is that someone is going to do everything that they can to either cover up or hide their actual performance.

This isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be consequences for constantly missing targets, numbers and expectations. However, it’s also important for the leadership team to set targets that are reasonable. You can set numbers that encourage your team members to stretch and push themselves outside their comfort zone, but the bar shouldn’t be so high that people begin questioning their own morals just to hit their targets.

Additionally, provide the resources, coaching, and training that they need to hit their goals and achieve high-level performance. The better equipped your team is to reach their targets, the more comfortable they’ll be in telling the truth and identifying their own gaps in performance.

As mentioned, examining your own behaviors is a vital piece to this puzzle too. Your reaction to bad news plays a pivotal role in your team’s comfort level in fessing up and being honest. Beyond honesty being important in every facet of an organization, you need a team that is open and comfortable in bringing up issues and gaps in their performance so that you can identify cogs in your processes and have a clear picture of what’s truly going on in the trenches.

You need people who are able to be honest with you, and just as importantly, with themselves, so they can work towards fixing issues over the long term. Share on X

And, that starts with the leader not overreacting when looking at missed targets.

This can be a cascading problem, of course, because if senior management places a significant amount of pressure on their middle managers and those managers place the pressure on the supervisors, again, that can cause problems where people feel the need to cover up their mistakes.

However, every level of management should have the awareness and willingness to break out of that cycle of cascading pressure, and begin with themselves to create a culture of transparency and integrity where people know what’s expected, a culture where team members are allowed to fall short and own up to it, and are encouraged to bring the necessary information to their leader so the department can move forward collectively.

Nothing ever operates perfectly, and you don’t want people to think that they have to be perfect in order to meet your expectations.

What’s one thing you do to ensure your team is comfortable with identifying their own gaps in performance, so they don’t feel the need to resort to dishonesty?

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