Organisational veneer – Scratch the surface

The thin veneer that both organisations and people maintain vexes me. It gets my goat. It is a bugbear. An annoyance. A useless distraction from and distortion of truth. What happens when we scratch it?

I’m sure we all manage our reputations to a degree, we are human and it’s a part of that. You might not call it that and the prime motivation for your action probably isn’t that, but most people care. But I’m talking about people and organisations more concerned with managing perception than reality. Where their version of the truth makes little accommodation for how things are.

I’ve seen an organisation recently clearly attempting to manipulate ratings on a well known website that is designed to rate how good an employer an organisation is. Astring of negative reviews from leavers about how poor the culture was followed by a veritable tidal wave of internal reviews (all with very similar ratings and wordings) which popped up on the site in a short time frame. It’s sad they have time enough to do that and not enough awareness or commitment to get things right in the first place.

Similarly, I’ve been in more than one conversation recently where people are clearly wanting to come across as reasonable and then mortally wronged, because high ground is handy. The arc of the conversation is predictable and the goal is point scoring. Not to be up front or honest or progress the conversation. Throughout my career I’ve found a strong correlation between people saying ‘Let’s get our cards on the table’ with being able to see a whole deck of cards hidden clumsily up someone’s sleeve. They use a phrase that I associate with some really honest people – they are just using it dishonestly.

It saddens me. Not allowing the truth out for long enough to be vulnerable costs us all. Whether you are an organisation or an individual the truth should matter, not effectively creating a mirage.

So next time that you see an organisation appear on stage talking about how well they treat their people then try speaking to some of their people to get to the truth.

The next time someone feigns hurt at a perceived slight to gain something else – then just treat it as something else you know about them.

The world has too many people trying to win a debate and too few trying to get to the truth. That truth includes ugly bits. Scratch away the veneer and deal with the reality.

2 thoughts on “Organisational veneer – Scratch the surface

  1. Completely agree David. Truth is something I have spent a great deal of time thinking about lately and I’ve even been researching it in the organisational context. You can’t have great (effective and meaningful) conversations without it. Without truth you don’t have trust and that’s a deal breaker especially when discussing something sensitive or personal. But people, and organisations, don’t always find truth easy as it makes them feel vulnerable. Ironic really because if they focused more on truth it would actually give them huge strength in so many ways.


  2. Oh I feel your pain and your frustration! I’ve known a firm where the CEO ordered his MDs to give top ratings on their internal engagement survey and organisations who hire companies to “manage” surveys that get them into “Best to Work For” handouts beloved of the Sunday Times. As a result, I don’t trust any of those “Top 50” lists – too easy to manipulate. Of course it’s a shame that they spend more energy and money hiding the truth than getting better. Perhaps if we were all braver and named names…..?


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