The Organisational Chastity Belt: Governance and Positive Deviance

According to popular history, when European knights left for the holy land during the crusades they fitted their wives with a chastity belt to ensure their fidelity. The belts were a crude device to enforce chaste behaviour as the Knights did not trust their wives while away for their holy tour of duty.

Organisational Chastity Belt

Is governance an organisational chastity belt?The chastity belt is making a comeback—and not only with contemporary connoisseurs of erotic bondage. The Global Financial Crisis has driven an increased focus on the governance of organisations. More risk management, more red tape, more creativity stifling procedures—more paper chastity belts.

In an earlier post, we provided seven reasons not to implement a process. Reason number eight is a lack of trust in the ability of people to make the right decisions on your behalf.

The key to unlocking the regulatory chastity belt is to look at your processes and start to unravel them. Processes and procedures should enable people to achieve objectives. Procedures should not be the final word on how work should be done—the people that write procedures are not all-knowing gods of management.

Lucid managers allow for positive deviance, and they allow for employees to make their own judgement on how to best achieve goals, instead of using the bondage of red-tape.

Positions Vacant: Deviant Behaviour is a Key Selection Criterion

Positions Vacant - Deviant Behaviour EssentialWould you like to work on the front lines of contemporary management?

The Lucid Manager is hiring, and we are looking for people that don’t fit the culture of their current workplace and have difficulty being aligned with corporate goals. At the Lucid Manager, we believe that the only thing you have to be brought into line with is yourself.

We acknowledge that deviant behaviour and taking calculated risks is the foundation of innovation. We, therefore, look for independent critical thinkers who can add value.

If this were a real recruitment add, it would have been a very odd one indeed. Most companies are looking for so called alignment and matching cultural values. At The Lucid Manager, we believe that this will lead to a severe lack of innovation.

The major corporate collapses and scandals of the recent years have caused a tightening of corporate governance, and many organisations have moved away from open models of leadership that value self-initiative to more regimented models of management.

Even though the western world is waging war to spread democracy around the globe, the one aspect that dominates most people’s lives, their workplaces, are ideally meritocracies but are mostly more like dictatorships. Most organisations are managed through clear hierarchical lines, and people are not very likely to go against the grain.

Research shows that employees do not only remain silent because of a fear of retribution but also because it is perceived as a waste of their time. This silence creates psychological tension and cognitive dissonance and eventually less commitment with organisational goals.1

Organisational deviance is, however, a major source of innovation. Without the freedom to make mistakes, there can be no learning. The current wave of tightened corporate governance leads to the silencing of dissenting voices and pruning of innovative actions. The ultimate consequence of this is the impoverishment of management practices.


  1. Detert, James R., Burris, E. R., & Harrison, D. A. (n.d.). Debunking four myths about employee silence. Harvard Business Review, 88(6), 26.