Designing Work for the 1% is Costly

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal got my attention.  The article is titled, Why We Lie and describes the fact that 1% cheat no matter what you do.  The rest just need to have deterrents to keep them mostly honest.

The telling example in the article describes this by “locked doors” that will keep the mostly honest people out as the locked door eliminates an opportunity.  However, the 1% will get in a steal stuff no matter what.

Isn’t this the way of the world?

There are many different forms of lying and cheating.  Executives will cheat for rewards, especially when the culture encourages this behavior.  Consultants will even steal clients by misrepresenting facts and changing history to support their intent and position.  Sometimes it comes in the form of hidden fees to customers.

Regardless, you can”t prevent people from cheating and lying that represent the 1%.  However, many organizations attempt to do so.  This is done by separating the work so that someone can’t cheat.  Seems logical, but separating the work loses the accountability that provides the deterrent to the “mostly” honest people.  Instead, once the work is separated no one is accountable.

Designing work that is interesting and challenging provides a positive deterrent to workers and provides a better leadership strategy.  This counter-intuitive truth that better work brings is something that can separate your culture and your service from all others.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at LinkedIn at

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