Would you lie for your boss?

Q:  I had a boss who asked me to bend the truth. I refused and eventually quit.  How the heck can Sean Spicer say the things he says at the White House briefings?  I don’t get it.

A: Kudos to you for leaving a situation instead of compromising your integrity. My mother often warned me that one lie begets another. In other words, once you tell a lie, you will have to fabricate another to cover the first.   Not only is it is a slippery downhill slope, but the lies will come back and bite you in the butt.

The really bad news is that lying can be contagious and infect the culture of an organization, indeed a government or a country.  Noted author and columnist Tom Friedman provides an important example of how lying can taint leadership:

I had several young Arabs from around the region tell me that when America lets its own leader get away with lying, hiding information and smearing the press or a political opponent, it is taken as a license by all Middle Eastern leaders, or the leaders of Turkey or Russia, to do the exact same thing and say: “See, the American president does it, why shouldn’t we?”

And he provides further proof:

the percentage of Germans who think the U.S. is a “trustworthy ally” dropped from 59 percent in November to 22 percent last month.

Uber’s current situation is a good example of how lying and deceptive practices play out in business. After they developed “Greyball” and deployed it against their competitors, Uber used it to create an electronic geofence to evade law enforcement.  And here is how Leaders_lyingdeception became an underpinning and destructive element of Uber’s culture:

At least 50 people inside Uber knew about Greyball, and some had qualms about whether it was ethical or legal. Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team, led by Salle Yoo, the company’s general counsel.

The leaders of Uber often acted outside the bounds as evidenced not only by the practice of “greyballing” but also by the allegations of sexual harassment that characterized their “anything goes” culture.

Members of the group, called the A-Team and composed of executives who were personally close to Mr. Kalanick, were shielded from much accountability over their

So, again your decision to leave your job instead of “bending the truth” is probably serving you well now and will continue to do so into the future. And, you are in really good company: Jeff Jones stepped down as Uber’s President, citing these reasons:

“It is now clear, however, that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president of the ride sharing business.”

Finally, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that there is no such thing as “the truth.”  Check your moral compass and basic beliefs and you may discover that you do not have a  “grey” area when it comes to lying.  How do you answer the following yes or no questions? Unknown

  • Am I a liar? Yes/no?
  • Will I tell a lie to keep my job? Yes/no?
  • Is it OK for my colleagues to lie? Yes/no?
  • Have I asked someone to lie?  Yes/no?
  • Will I ignore the lies that my manager, colleagues or organization perpetuate? Yes/no?
  • Would I lie for my boss? Yes/no?
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