Say,

Finweek English Edition - - MANAGEMENT -

sooner!”

I left the pre­sen­ta­tion with the ap­proval I was seek­ing but with a sig­nif­i­cantly lower opin­ion of the se­nior ex­ec­u­tive team. If any­thing, they should have been the first ones to evac­u­ate the build­ing. If the se­nior ex­ec­u­tive team were taken out by a freak fire, then it would have had a mas­sive im­pact on the bank. (Though some might ar­gue it would have been a pos­i­tive im­pact!) It struck me as hyp­o­crit­i­cal that they ex­pected ev­ery­one else to stop what they’re do­ing, yet they were al­lowed to con­tinue as if noth­ing was go­ing on.

Un­for­tu­nately, dou­ble stan­dards across se­nior­ity lines are very com­mon in or­gan­i­sa­tions. By analysing the re­sults of cli­mate sur­veys that we’ve run at iCli­mateSur­vey. com, we’ve found that a very high per­cent­age of staff feels that dou­ble stan­dards is a big prob­lem. The pro­por­tion typ­i­cally ranges be­tween 15% and 75%. As one em­ployee wrote on an anony­mous dis­cus­sion board: “Here, it’s all about ‘do as I say but not as I do’... there is an in­vis­i­ble bar­rier which di­vides us – above the bar­rier you can pretty much do what­ever you want; be­low the bar­rier you’ve got to watch your step... un­for­tu­nately I’m on the wrong side of the bar­rier.” The prob­lem is that very of­ten se­nior man­agers are un­aware that their ac­tions are per­ceived as dou­ble stan­dard by staff. When 37-year- old Marissa Mayer was ap­pointed CEO of Ya­hoo! in July 2012, it came as a bit of a shock that she was preg­nant when she started. One of the more con­tro­ver­sial changes s he i nst i t uted was to ban the prac­tice of telecom­mut­ing, forc­ing em­ploy- ees to report to the of­fice. Ac­cord­ing to Mayer: “Speed and qual­ity are of­ten sac­rif iced when we work from home. We need to be one Ya­hoo!, and that starts with phys­i­cally be­ing to­gether.” Em­ploy­ees could see she meant busi­ness when she took only two weeks of ma­ter­nity leave af­ter giv­ing birth.

How­ever, a short while later, Mayer built a nurs­ery in her of­fice so she could bring her baby to work. This an­gered many em­ploy­ees, es­pe­cially those former stay-at-home work­ers. The fact that Mayer built the nurs­ery at her own ex­pense is of lit­tle con­se­quence – this sim­ply wouldn’t be an op­tion for the rank-and-file em­ployee.

When em­ploy­ees per­ceive that dou­ble stan­dards ex­ist in the work­place, it breeds mis­trust and an us-ver­sus-them men­tal­ity. It makes it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to cre­ate an in­clu­sive cul­ture built on in­tegrity.

We see the ef­fect when we tell our kids to stop us­ing dirty lan­guage, when a day be­fore they heard us swear­ing at a taxi driver. We see the ef­fect when Ja­cob Zuma tells us to tighten our belts while he is splash­ing out our tax­pay­ers’ money on his pri­vate res­i­dence. Or when he tells us that stamp­ing out cor­rup­tion is im­por­tant while at the same time his own party is em­broiled in count­less ques­tion­able schemes.

Peo­ple in lead­er­ship po­si­tions should un­der­stand that they need to hold them­selves to a higher stan­dard than those who fol­low them – not a lower stan­dard. Lead­ers should un­der­stand that fol­low­ers are con­flicted when they ob­serve be­hav­iour which is in­con­sis­tent with their words. This leads to ero­sion of trust, and, in ex­treme cases, re­bel­lion. Lead­ers would do well to re­mem­ber the words of Ralph Waldo Emer­son: “What you do speaks so loudly that I can­not hear what you say.” Dr. Gavin Sy­manowitz is an ac­tu­ary and founder of iCli­mateSur­vey.com and Feed­back­Rocket.com.

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