Virtue Signalling & Virtuous Leadership

Virtue Signalling impacts Executive Presence, Diversity & Inclusion, Servant Leadership, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Virtue Leadership.

Definition from Oxford Languages:

noun: virtue signalling; noun: virtue signaling
the public expression of opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or social conscience or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue.
“it’s noticeable how often virtue signaling consists of saying you hate things”

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, virtue signalling is “an attempt to show other people that you are a good person, for example by expressing opinions that will be acceptable to them, especially on social media… indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favor for certain political ideas or cultural happenings”. The expression is often used to imply by the user that the virtue being signaled is exaggerated or insincere.

Virtue signalling could take the form of posting a charitable gift receipt on Facebook to show yourself as a generous person. Virtue signalling is also used by politicians in order to gain support. In the workforce managers easily use VS to manipulate employees.

Virtue signaling is common and can easily be more harmful than most people realize. As a result, it’s critical to understand it. Read on to learn more about it and how to avoid it, especially in the workplace.

What this means in the workspace

Virtue signaling is especially bad in the workplace since it creates an environment of mistrust, lies and resentment. If some employees who virtue signal receive better treatment or receive promotions, negative feelings can develop within the team. Consequently, colleagues try to “one-up” each other which can easily create a toxic work environment. This is the reason managers, especially, need to recognize virtue signaling.

The workplace should be a space for people to share positive thoughts and actions. These should come from a place of honesty and productivity to be truly meaningful. After all, productive relationships within teams and the workplace create successful organizations.

How to identify virtue signaling

It’s easy to confuse virtue signaling with authentic exchanges during a conversation. After all, it can be harsh and impulsive to assume that anyone who discusses a cause or moral principle is doing so for their image. Most people are intuitive about virtue signaling. As an example, a celebrity you follow on social media could post about a cause that gets significant media attention. However, if this celebrity has done nothing that actually helps the cause, you would question their true intentions.

While this kind of behavior in celebrities may be easy to identify, it can be much more challenging to recognize them in the people around you. You certainly don’t want to be caught in a conversation where you misread a person’s intentions. Here are a few things that you can look out for in virtue signaling:

  • The person expresses comments or behavior to express their high moral values.
  • They are acting deceitfully and don’t conform to their true principles.
  • Their actions have minimal impact on the causes they claim they’re helping.
  • They accentuate their remarks or actions to justify their moral superiority over others.

Virtuous Leadership

Virtuous Leadership means accepting the fact that leaders are not born, they are trained. And yet, true leadership is not a matter of just style or technique, it’s essentially a demonstration of character. Leadership without virtue is truly not leadership at all, but just directing or managing. Effective leadership should flow from character strengths known as virtues – courage, self-control, justice, and practical wisdom, and especially applying the virtues of magnanimity and humility.

How to Deal with Virture Signaling on the Job

It’s always important to remain professional and treat others with respect. Read the room and decide if it is really necessary and actually helpful to confront the situation. Also, ask yourself, “Is it the right place and time?” If you believe it is, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Consider if a response would definitely have a significant impact.
  • Identify and communicate the behavior and explain how it can be harmful to the workspace.
  • Be sure that you do not use the concept of virtue signaling as a petty method to put down or dismiss any of your work colleagues.
  • Be mindful that just because someone is acting in a way that uncovers their moral convictions, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re virtue signaling.

Key Takeaways

The term virtue signaling is filled with negative connotations. It is critically important, especially at work, to recognize that virtue is completely different from virtue signaling. This blog, for example, shows how virtuous leaders inspire their teams with action and they increase employee job satisfaction. Ultimately, virtue signaling reduces true virtue. Therefore, any signs of it should be respectfully acknowledged and stamped out on the job.