Insincerity: What is it Good For?

The customer is always right. Greet every customer with a smile. Always greet your employees enthusiastically. Always go to the office holiday party. The American work experience is riddled with these tiny moments of insincerity that are often scripted or actively encouraged by employers. But is exhibiting insincerity with customers or co-workers helping or hurting an employee’s chances of success in their role?

Well, there are a few determining factors involved:

 

  1. How much emotional regulation do interactions on the job require?

People can either behave in a highly scripted way where they are purposely suppressing emotional responses to others’ emotions or a highly empathic way where they are purposely exhibiting emotional responses to others’ emotions. The former is insincere and the latter is sincere.

In some jobs (such as customer service or sales), interactions with others are highly scripted and there is a heavy emphasis on remaining polite in uncomfortable situations. In order to succeed in this environment, employees need to err on the side of insincerity – in order to maintain positivity in the face of negativity.

Success in other jobs (such as an executive) rely more on displaying an emotional response to others. 92% of workers say that executive empathy is the biggest factor in their retention. So, an insincere boss can drive turnover rates and decrease employee satisfaction.

 

  1. How unpredictable are the job’s daily tasks?

Adaptability and sincerity are, to a certain degree, mutually exclusive. If you adjust to another person’s needs, chances are you’re silently subduing your own. Ritual politeness, even if insincere, can be a service to others.

This means that employees who are likely to face day-to-day crises – those who work, for example, in Human Resources – will encounter more success if they forego revealing their true feelings and behave insincerely. In a similar vein, insincere employees are better at working independently and more resilient to stress.

 

  1. How much interaction with international counterparts is required?

More than half of American employees always or frequently “put on a show” in their workplaces. American workers are infamous for their insincerity in the global market, and are often associated with false smiles and feigned optimism.

While insincerity might be valued in certain interactions in the United States, it may not be elsewhere. In Germany, for example, factual precision and conciseness are valued workplace interactions; in Eastern Europe, pleasantries (such as smiling and small talk) are viewed to be largely unnecessary and uncomfortable. As a result, the same “insincere” social niceties that are valued in an American workplace would be bad etiquette on a global scale.

It is critical for human resource professionals to actively consider candidates’ level of sincerity when evaluating them as new applicants or for internal promotions. Only then can companies both foster a positive work environment and deliver a return on their investment in human capital.

 

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