Post-truth is a new term and it is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
Typical post-truth strategies include fake news, constant repetition of untruths, blaming of the innocent and generally rendering the truth as of secondary importance.
In larger organisations, this sort of behaviour is given the derogatory term “political” – it just hasn’t been seen in politics (ironically) on the public stage until recently. All the signs were that this sort of behaviour was on the wane with the advent of authentic leadership and constant reinforcement of company values.
We need to be vigilant though – and leaders need to act swiftly if they see any similar behaviours no matter how insignificant they may appear.
We have seen how social media has driven up bullying behaviour in teenagers and there are instances where it has been used to for good and bad effect in organisations already.
For some leaders it will be tempting to utilise some of these techniques – which let’s face it are nothing new – as it might seem to be more acceptable or justified bearing in mind recent events. This behaviour may even produce short term results – however the return of tyrannical behaviours will damage more than a few careers.
For whatever reasons, there are a few major experiments going on in the world right now that will lead to lots of learning opportunities because the results will be inescapable.
In a post-truth world though there is a danger that these learning opportunities are lost and poor results are blamed on the messengers, previous leadership, and anyone else who doesn’t have a stake in the story.
The only defence against this is good leadership – especially from the top.
Everybody in the organisation can help and HR especially can advise leaders on how to tackle potential internal politicians, here are some tips on how to manage these sort of behaviours:
Call out the wrong behaviours as soon as they occur
Create a safe environment – both for the perpetrators and whistle blowers
Use careful language – avoid giving perpetrators more ammunition
Maintain a sense of calmness
Identify if there is any actual grievance that is driving these behaviours
Set clear standards of behaviour and consequences
Strong leadership has probably never been needed as much as it is now – let’s hope our selection processes are more effective than democracy.
Simon Coops has been an active player in the transformation of the HR services market in Resourcing, HR Consulting and Executive Development for over 25 years. He was a founder of Talisman, an international Search and Selection company, which was acquired by Penna in 1998 where he worked until 2007, when Acuity Coaching was founded.