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BEING DISHONEST ABOUT HONESTY

I never touched a gun in my life. That and that alone forever doomed me to middle management.

Vincent “Vinnie” Antonelli

From: My Blue Heaven

Okay. For the record, I never lie; just ask my cousins, Rocky 1, 2 and 3.

Ooops… yeah, as I was saying…

Now hold this thought: Have you ever told someone “you are the most beautiful person in the world”?

Put it this way, every so often, there are blog pieces, especially on LinkedIn, exhorting people to be honest, always honest and for their own good, and frankly, to me, this is the sordid and despicable height of dishonesty.

Let me state this up front, in my view, honesty is always the best policy, especially if you have a bad memory. Honesty in the workplace makes a lot of sense. So try to be honest in your chosen or imposed profession or work activity, and enthusiastically so.

Now should you also temper this view with the realities of working life in market oriented or capitalist societies, or indeed, you may be someone who has not had such good fortune, but the question still stands. Can you be pragmatic and still maintain a moral compass?

You work in a bank and notice what you believe to be irregularities in the accounting process; you denounce those irregularities, because you are honest, right?

Your best friend runs a satellite dish company and you suspect that they may be doing work off their books to avoid paying taxes; you report them to the URS, right? Because you are honest.

Your 89-year-old pot-smoking neighbour, a onetime best friend of your parents, is growing marihuana in her bathroom; you report her to the cops, right? Because you are honest.

The caretaker at the school who claimed to have been mortally wounded in the Great Klingon Wars; and you call them out on their lies. They may be sacked because of your honesty, but that’s okay. Right?

Here’s one close to my heart; really, truly, honestly… Oops, now how did that happen? This is not close to my heart, this is business. So, you are working for a company that is trying to get into the big time and the fast bucks with Big Data. Your peers claim they are the experts, when actually they are not, they claim that the software is new and without equal, even though you know it is based on really old technology in a fancy new package. Do you denounce them for their lies, deception and guile? You know, for the sake of honesty.

A salesperson guilds the lily in a presentation to a client. Even though the client isn’t phased by this, because they know the game, and they aren’t entirely candid themselves, you still report them for lying, right? Because you are honest, and they are very, very naughty people.

The corporation you are working for, that like many others, continually reinvents their history and their product and service line; they are altering the facts to suit the market. You denounce them as well right? Because you are honest, and they are so wrong.

Well, no.

When it comes to the truth, there are many sanctimonious, two-faced puritanical hypocrites out there.

I expect both people and businesses, especially businesses, to gild the lily, to stretch the point, to exaggerate, to invent histories, anecdotes, success stories or to spin failures as successes, to sex up, back fill, hype up and to offer flim flam as fact.

Which is why we have contracts, pertinent contract clauses, incentives, penalties and lawyers.

If someone tells me that captains of industry and great leaders never lied to anyone, or misrepresented something, or exaggerated or diminished something, some way, shape, or form. That leaders have never tricked someone, failed to be entirely candid with all of their management team or fooled an entire organisation, and a large list of etceteras, then I’ll show you someone who is being, to put it politely, naïve. Of course, it could also be that they are simply lying. More to the point, if I had a dollar for every time a management consultant told a porkie, I would be surrounded by mountains of Ben Franklins.

The people I will never trust are those who claim to be above the human condition, a superior form of being, all sacred and without profanity. These people cannot be trusted at all because they are permanently mendacious, and delusional, freakily so, and they do not actually know it or are willing to recognise it.

So remember this, honesty may be the best policy, but reality and pragmatism dictates that it’s not the only best policy, and that we live in an unfair, volatile and competitive world, where the biggest liars are those who pretend they couldn’t possibly lie.

Moreover, before I leave you, just remember this:

[Vincent “Vinnie” Antonelli is questioned about the stolen goods in the trunk of the car he stole]

Hannah Stubbs: The books…

Vinnie: You have something against books?

Hannah Stubbs: I have nothing about books! I am curious about the books in your trunk.

Vinnie: You see, I was thinking of writing my story, so I bought this one on how to do it.

Hannah Stubbs: Why do you need 25 copies of it?

Vinnie: In case I want to read it more than once…

Thank you for reading.

Addendum – Here’s something else to consider:

This is from the back cover of Dan Ariely’s latest book The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone–Especially Ourselves

The New York Times bestselling author of Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality returns with a thought-provoking work that challenges our preconceptions about dishonesty and urges us to take an honest look at ourselves.

Does the chance of getting caught affect how likely we are to cheat?
How do companies pave the way for dishonesty?
Does collaboration make us more or less honest?
Does religion improve our honesty?

Most of us think of ourselves as honest, but, in fact, we all cheat. From Washington to Wall Street, the classroom to the workplace, unethical behavior is everywhere. None of us is immune, whether it’s a white lie to head off trouble or padding our expense reports. In The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, award-winning, bestselling author Dan Ariely shows why some things are easier to lie about than others; how getting caught matters less than we think in whether we cheat; and how business practices pave the way for unethical behavior, both intentionally and unintentionally. Ariely explores how unethical behavior works in the personal, professional, and political worlds, and how it affects all of us, even as we think of ourselves as having high moral standards.

But all is not lost. Ariely also identifies what keeps us honest, pointing the way for achieving higher ethics in our everyday lives.

With compelling personal and academic findings, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty will change the way we see ourselves, our actions, and others.

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