‘Faking it’ at work drains productivity

12 Dec 2017 By Emily Burt

Employees who mimic workplace values to fit in are less likely to be engaged at work

While organisational values are a hot topic in the business world, employees who pretend to share a moral compass with their colleagues to fit in could be damaging their wellbeing and engagement, new research has revealed.

In a survey carried out by the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, researchers found that employees who had the same values as their leaders were highly productive in their jobs. However, those who imitated workplace values they didn’t believe in were more likely to burn out and be less engaged at work.

When leader integrity was high, employees were more likely to fake their enthusiasm for workplace values to conform with their boss, so being a dynamic manager can be a double-edged sword.

False values are an issue, the study found, because when workplace values are faked employees are prone to suffering lower levels of the emotional enjoyment and cognitive ability necessary for them to do their jobs well. Behaving in a way that is inconsistent with your genuine feelings demands more effort than authentic behaviour, draining self-regulatory and mental resources.

Lead researcher professor Patricia Hewlin believes it is important for managers to hit the “sweet spot” of leader integrity, promoting workplace values without limiting the authentic expression of their teams.

“Managers should encourage employees to voice their opinions without fear of repercussions,” she says. “They should create a comfortable work environment and clearly communicate that disagreements can actually be good for business.”

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