Cheating in cricket and cheating in the workplace…Same same?

The cricket ball tampering scandal seems to have broken the heart of a nation. The apology also has had mixed reviews. Sure, the cricket pitch is an extraordinary workplace, but it is a workplace nonetheless, and if the last week has taught us anything, it’s that cheating in the workplace is A. THING.

People watch and play sports under the assumption that there is a level playing field. In many ways business is the same. All companies need to abide by laws, pay the right taxes and compensate staff. But how often have you heard “they do X, Y, Z to avoid paying taxes” or “they can’t really do that, but who’s checking?”

Cheating in business is risky, but so it business itself. So, in some ways we’ve built up a certain amount of tolerance to many questionable business practices that we deem “are a bit s**t, but happen all the time”.

What kinds of s**t are we talking about?

Its statically impossible that if you are reading this you haven’t lied, cheated or stolen something from work at some point – Myself included. The notepad, the pen, lied on a timesheet or maybe even said you were sick when you were just hungover.

Cheating in the workplace can look like a whole bunch of things, including:

  • Misrepresenting your productivity levels by exaggerating hours and the like
  • Coming in late or leaving early and not making up the time
  • Using sick leave when you’re not sick
  • Lying or baling others for not completing workload
  • Lying about qualifications and certifications
  • Getting your work outsourced by someone else – such as the software developer in USA who outsourced his work to China (one of my favourite cautionary tales about workplace cheating)
  • Lying about your company to avoid taxes, gain benefits or misrepresent your expertise
  • Falsifying information about competitors to get an edge
  • Not compensating your employees the way you agreed to when they started.

Why is it such a problem?

Aside from the issues such a low-productivity, even what we consider “small-scale” cheating can have pretty disastrous and expensive consequences for businesses.

The second you start erroneous report writing, fudging books, overstating your expertise or outright falsifying information, we’re moving into a space where your business is extremely liable if it doesn’t come off.

The old adage that reputations take “years to build and seconds to destroy” couldn’t be truer (ask Steve Smith). Even if we don’t think about the legal and resultant financial ramifications of cheating (they’re huge though, just FYI), cheating in the workplace lays bare the inner workings of you and your business, and if you’re found out, puts the worst of it on display for everyone to see.

Think that’s an exaggeration? It’s not. Ask the banks or Volkswagen.

With a reputation in smithereens, you’ll struggle to find clients, employers or employees…and all of a sudden, you’re at rock bottom

So, why do people do it?

Over the last few weeks we’ve all heard about the Australian Cricket Team’s ‘win at all costs’ culture. Similar to our cricketers, most people at work start cheating as a response to anger or pressure. It starts with having a ‘short-term’ mindset around problems and issues, and feeling that you need to solve it successful immediately.

From there, it snowballs. When we know something is wrong, but we feel pressured to do it anyway, we’ll often find a way to justify it on a personal level. If the pressure isn’t removed, these excuses simply pave the way to increase our tolerance for cheating. And because we’re thinking short-term, the second we feel we’re in the clear, our brain thinks “yep, it worked out, maybe it really isn’t so bad after all. Let’s do it again.”

Cheating in the workplace…you’ve been warned!

Knowing this, the easiest way to stop cheating is…

Never let it start. Find ways of having checks and balances put in place so it can be stamped out. Ensure that leaders lead by example. Build trust and transparency in all of your people, processes and procedures.

When it comes to your employees, stop with the pressure. Be consultative when it comes to KPI’s and benchmarks, keep everything reasonable. Be respectful and compassionate about outside pressures such as family, money and illness. Finding ways to give your employees control over their work life as much as possible (think things like hours, dress, projects) can be one really helpful way to avoid tension and anger.

One last thing to remember

Long term goals give everyone a better perspective on daily stressors at work. You’ll constantly be aware of what’s at stake. If the Aussie cricketers had been focusing on a 5 year plan to raise their win rate by 10%, maybe they’d have realised that losing one game in the grand scheme of things wasn’t worth ruining their careers.

So keep everyone in the loop. Agreeing on goals that you and your team can strive for will not only nip cheating in the bud, but it will also build openness and unity in your business, making it happier, healthier and more profitable.

In the same way it’s not okay to plagiarise at school or uni, it’s not okay to provide false information, write false reports or claim false certifications. Quite frankly it’s time we remembered that cheating in the workplace is just not cricket.

Nathalie Lynton is a superhero business woman and HR rockstar with over 15 years experience who has one goal: To make passion and meaning a more important part of Australian workplaces. She gives small and medium businesses access to affordable and full integrated support in functional business areas such as HR, planning, IT, accounting and marketing.

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