Most of us lie every day in some form or another. Perhaps you tell your significant other that you are fine when in reality there is something bothering you. Maybe you tell the server at the restaurant that the food and service were good, but in the back of your mind, it could have been better. It is possible that you told your boss that bad traffic was the reason for your tardiness, but really you stayed up too late last night and had a difficult time getting up in the morning.
The motives for lying can be selfish or altruistic. Selfish people lie for personal gain or to avoid the consequences of their actions. They deceive others and may even take pleasure in doing so. This type of lying is offensive and many would agree that it is wrong. However, others may lie in order to protect others from harm. For example, telling a person that their new hairstyle is terrible may damage their self-perception so you may choose to lie to them instead. Does that make the lie acceptable? Finally, there are those that lie by omission. They intentionally leave out details or facts, either for self-preservation or to protect others.
In business, is lying ever okay or is honesty always the best policy? The short answer is that honesty is best. However, as a leader you will find that there are times when the truth has to be given out in responsible doses or softened so as not to do damage. How you deliver the truth can be just as important as whether or not you tell the truth. For example, if an employee is not performing to expectation, you can communicate that to them without belittling them or making them to feel completely incompetent. Take a look at the following scenarios and determine whether or not you would tell the truth:
You have just received a promotion, but it is not effective for two weeks. You have been told not to announce the promotion to anyone on your team for confidential reasons. One of your lead team members informs you that they heard a rumor that you were being promoted and asks you if this is true. What is your response?
You have applied for a new job and your potential employer has asked for your last supervisor’s contact information so that they can obtain a reference. You know that your last supervisor did not like you and would not provide a favorable reference. What is your response?
You are conducting a performance review for one of your top team members. If they receive the highest rating on their review, they will receive their annual bonus. However, even though this team member is a top performer, they have arrived to work late almost every day this quarter and should be marked down. What do you do?