EB120 - Personal Authenticity © Question:   I have been shocked by the dishonest behavior of employees who otherwise look and sound like ordinary, hard-working people but have no conscience about what they have done.  How do you know if a person is being deceptive and confront them before they create a disaster?

Larry:  My Consulting work has regularly thrust me into situations where I must encourage managers who have been discouraged by the serious misbehavior of employees they thought were “normal” people.  It is apparently becoming more common.  As one of my colleagues (a management recruiter) recently commented, “The search for authentic, ethical leaders is becoming increasingly difficult.  One in fifteen of our candidates scored too high on the psychopathic scale to be hired.  And these were experienced people with good resumes.”

Whether the problem is getting worse or not is debatable.  But there’s no question we’re becoming more aware of these behaviors, their harm to people and the lost profits.   My experiences have helped me learn some important lessons.

First, I want to always be diligent to keep a clear conscience myself.  Without a clear conscience, I will be unable or unwilling to confront issues of authenticity.   So I must be willing to admit and correct my mistakes as I become aware of them.   The devious people you have unfortunately encountered have surely made excuses for the smaller errors in their life, slowly losing their conscience about such things and ultimately committing more serious infractions.

Second, as a manager, if I allow someone’s bad behaviors to go unchallenged, I am allowing them to move – one step at a time – toward increasingly bad behaviors.  Eventually, I will be faced with a much more difficult task or even tragedy.  But, at the very least, the bad actors are probably frustrating their co-workers who want to do the right thing and keep their promises to their customers.  It is a manager’s duty to challenge anyone whose behaviors will impede their success.

Third, it is imperative that we maintain reliable relationships with colleagues and fellow managers to help provide the “reality check” we need so that we can identify patterns of questionable behavior and act responsibly.  It’s not an easy thing to do, but for the QM-trained executive it is a “no-brainer.”

Finally, let your life be your message.  One of the most imposing obstacles to people becoming more reliable in the work place is the inconsistent behaviors of those who teach and lead.  When you want things to work right, run on time, or be there when you need them, consistency matters.