About the effect of imposture and hypocrisy

21st June 2019

Dear Christian,

I am pleased to observe that, through this correspondence, a consistent discussion regarding the difficult issues that slow down organizational development / transformation begins to take shape. I am referring to the one that generates sustainability.

Speaking of the possibilities of avoiding imposture, I was mentioning the refusal of the proposed position, which is placed above the current competences, respectively the commitment to complete them to the required level within a set period.

Instead, accepting imposture, triggers a complex mechanism, designed to give answers to these three issues generated by it:

  • How your superiors see you
  • How people you lead (the team) see you
  • How you get the support of similar roles (equals – horizontal)

If the first two situations are about masks, the third one is about complicity. In all cases, hypocrisy is present, but not as a defensive (natural, generally present and acceptable to a certain degree) reaction, but as an offensive tool.

In the absence of necessary skills or in the case of inconsistency of personal values with those of the organization (the community), the best solution for a favorable light to appear is to control and to distort information within the two vertical directions in order to have a result based on two image components. The one seen from above presents an employee who is dedicated and solves the company’s problems (sometimes with an “important” amount of effort). The other one features a “patriarchal” character, without whose support it would be very difficult for the team members to resist inside the organization.

Let’s take them one by one.

For the image projected upwards, controlling the information that comes from the team is mainly needed. This information is slightly modified by adding, emphasizing one’s personal contribution in obtaining the results. Sometimes the action is doubled by the total or partial silence of the contributor who solved the problem. In this way, these results can be directly, wholly or partly taken up. If, however, there is a risk that the information from the real contributor will also go upwards, in which case he will be discredited step by step by the management. It is a systematic action, applied in small doses, assimilable by the recipient who can underline, directly or with small “adjustments, the “objectivity” of the attitude of the impostor to the one in question by using any situation.

There is no need to say that the whole process involves a high level of hypocrisy used consciously, oriented towards obtaining planned results. The more intelligent and engaged in hypocrisy the characters is, the more complex the game is. On the other hand, in order to promote the absorption of the image projected by him, the impostor tries to develop a relationship based on any nonprofessional personal domain with his superior, whose concerns and interests are carefully observed and welcomed with information, relation facilitation etc. What does he do by this? He increases the confidence of his superior in his professional capacity through “services” outside the profession, reinforcing his credibility. Any previous story (difficult to be thoroughly checked) about his successes from roles in other organizations can consistently contribute to this. The oldest reference I can remember from Romanian literature is “The Old and the New Parvenus” („Ciocoii vechi și noi”): „With yoghurt, with doughnuts, you made yourself a noble, you coward!”

For the image projected downwards, emotional instruments can be used, as appropriate, both strength and compassion. In both cases, maintaining the team in a correct non-informative state, the lack of real support towards progress and cutting initiatives to create the feeling of increased dependence on the team leader are very useful.

The first scenario plays out like this: “If you want to have a good life in this team, you must learn immediately that everything comes through me.” For that member, increasing or lowering the image at the top level of the team, sometimes even inside the team, represents the way to confirm the “on-boarding” statement. Changing the image is done by the mechanism presented above, on the occasion of periodical career evaluation of progress. It is relatively easy for this phenomenon to occur, as long as the rudiments (which are also superficial) of the organizational culture, usually borrowed by having contact with organizations in the West, for the sake of creating the impression that the organization has its own culture, allow the evaluator (team leader) to have justifications categorized as: “bad attitude”, without any arguments or references.

The second scenario features a boss who is deeply preoccupied with client relations (by telephone, video conference – daily, for hours…), solving such complicated problems that it is obvious to everyone that there is neither a way nor someone to delegate his activity to, being able only through his “competence” to ensure the successful delivery of the result. However, we know quite well that in the shadow of the “oak”, nothing is really growing. This way, day by day, trowel by trowel, the socket is built, then the statue of the “hero”. The symptom is the appreciation of the “huge” amount of effort delivered by the boss through compassion: “the poor Mişu!” It is interesting that the value added by this effort is not questioned at all. But about this subject, we will talk in another letter.

What remains to be discussed is the problem of complicity. Given the character types described so far, it is quite easy to see that we found ourselves in the situation of majoritary mediocrity in the management area. Its characteristic, as a group, is given by the speed and consistency with which it builds a consistent alliance. Obviously, apparently on defensive (preservation of privileges) purposes. The problem is not related to maintaining privileges, but to preserving – freezing the organization on the current pattern, which leads to stopping the initiative and, consequently, to applying innovation, strongly affecting the organization’s sustainability.

Once this state has been achieved, it is quite difficult to break the “cemented” alliance that becomes the main brake for organizational development. In this case, things can degenerate into direct actions of undermining the organization by a person or a group.

The root of these phenomena is either the absence of a set of consistent values, the failure to respect these values if they were well chosen by the founding leader, or a rift, caused by various reasons, between the founding leader and the organization.

I look forward to your reaction,

Alexandru

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