Friday, October 13, 2017
People are generally reluctant to speak truth to power and if the organizational goals you’re setting are unrealistic it’s likely that you’re being lied to and that any progress toward those goals is a complete work of fiction.
New research from Penn State University shows that when organizational goals are unobtainable, middle management often refuses to speak up. Instead, they “game” the system to create the illusion of progress. This very issue was relayed to me anecdotally many years ago by a consultant who said “You wouldn’t believe how many managers game the system and fuzzy up data to make leadership think they’re winning – when they’re actually losing.”
Unethical behavior is distinctly different from organizational fraud and these new findings upend the conventional wisdom that such behavior flows either downward from top leadership or upward from low-level positions. You already have enough difficulty getting accurate, unbiased information with which to make decisions. Don’t make the mistake of setting unrealistic goals that create the conditions for unethical behavior.