Last week I observed two sales representatives at a local restaurant taking a company mandated knowledge test together. When someone asked what they were doing the answer was “Just exercising good teamwork.” Really?  Is that what that was?

In my corporate days, individuals were consistently required to take online tests to confirm product knowledge, compliance regulations, and legal responsibilities. On many teams, these exams became group efforts.

At a certain point in my career, I stopped condoning that behavior from my team. Why? Because it was wrong! 

Hypocrisy In the Name of Teamwork

The intent of those evaluations was never to test a group’s knowledge of the material. The group would not be put in situations where their product knowledge or their understanding of compliance and legal responsibilities were put to the test.

The real life tests happen to individuals. They do not happen in a group setting. This so called “teamwork” does not prepare anyone for the tests individuals will face.

In any other environment, this would be called cheating. The irony is these same adults would never condone these activities from their own children.

Child: “But Mom, we were just exercising teamwork!”

Parent: “Well that teamwork has just resulted in your driving privileges disappearing for a month!”

The hypocrisy of our actions at work can be astonishing when we look at the standards we hold our children to.

The Cost of Integrity

Integrity in 12 Words or Less

“Doing what is good and right and proper, even at personal cost.”

What is the personal cost to the individuals taking these tests?

  • Time:  Required to study.
  • Individual Prestige: If my score is lower than the team average.
  • Leader Reputation: If his/her team scored below the company average.

The Cost of Teamwork without Integrity

The danger in situations where teams join together to game the system may not be immediately evident. But the damage done to individuals, teams, and the larger organization can’t be ignored.

What is the damage done when teams take these tests?

  • Individual: Pragmatism takes the place of Integrity.
  • Individual: Lying and cheating become easier each time we choose to compromise our Integrity.
  • Teams: What is allowed is condoned. The leader who turns a blind eye, is condoning lying and cheating on the team.
  • Teams: When Integrity is lacking, trust becomes a liability on a team instead of a strength.
  • Organizations: When individuals don’t really know the information they make decisions that put the whole company at risk.

The Bottom Line:

Each time we make a choice, it makes it easier to make that same choice again. That includes good choices and bad choices. 

When we compromise our Integrity to save time or make things easier in the short run, we are setting ourselves up for a big fall when larger tests of our Integrity present themselves.

Are corporate sponsored tests a drag? Absolutely! But because something is mundane is a lousy reason for us to sacrifice our Integrity.

When we call this an exercise in teamwork, we are fooling ourselves. What we are actually exercising is poor judgement and hypocrisy.


Does teamwork really benefit when a group decides to cheat together?

Dave Anderson is coauthor of the Amazon Best-Seller Becoming a Leader of Character – Six Habits that Make or Break a Leader at Work and at Home with his father General James L. Anderson (USA Retired).

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