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Retaining Employees - 18 March 2015

There are many potential causes of staff turnover. Some people just hate their job. Others feel a cultural misalignment with the organisation. There are also those who don’t get along with their colleagues. And now, in an extensive new study published in the Journal of Management, a fresh and prominent cause of turnover has emerged: hypocritical leadership.

The researchers put hundreds of people through an experiment as well as a survey. What they discovered was that employees have an innate desire for a predictable and reliable workplace. But when they perceive their manager’s actions as being incongruent with what they say – when they’re not walking their talk – the uncertainty spikes. With little ability to change their boss’s behaviour, they instead choose to look for a job elsewhere.

That leader could be you. The first step in overcoming such a tendency is to catch yourself doing it. Here’s how you can tell if your leadership style is verging on the hypocritical:

- You talk about performance but aren’t a high performer yourself.
- You advocate teamwork but don’t work well with others.
- You try to motivate staff but aren’t motivated yourself.
- You state ethics is important but then behave unethically.

The underlying issue is that employees with a hypocritical leader can’t predict their leader’s behaviour. This is an important point because when employees aren’t certain of your potential actions, they begin to question their ability to meet your expectations. The consequence is that they end up thinking they’re going to fail, and so they move to a workplace where there’s a greater chance of success.

Is that a bit melodramatic? Possibly. But is it also the reality for many people? Definitely.

If you feel this has described your leadership style, there’s a solution: integrity (the opposite of hypocrisy). This means practicing what you preach; keeping your promises; committing to personal improvement; being accountable; showing respect; and doing the right thing.

Otherwise, people will start resigning. As the scholars note in their journal article, employees will leave in order “to relieve the strong distaste and repulsion they have for the leader.”


To download complimentary e-books on employee engagement, retention, and recruitment (valued at over $100), please click here.

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