Honesty is probably one of the most under-rated qualities that exist today. Perhaps honesty has been somewhat diluted because we have heard too many lies and seen too many broken promises by the people who are supposed to lead us. Whatever the reason we have lost our way a little bit in our modern culture when it comes to basic honesty.
It’s actually kind of hard to see where we went so wrong in the honesty department. It is so simple and easy to tell the truth. Yet somehow we have made an art form out of little lies, like our age or weight, that have led us to have a seemingly endless capacity to tell even bigger and bigger lies about really important things.
My mother taught me that there are two forms of lies, those of commission and those of omission. Commission lies are the easiest ones to spot because they just hang out there like clothes drying on the line. They are also the easiest to catch because they leave a trail that’s easy to follow. Once you tell one lie you eventually have to tell another one to cover up for the first one. Sooner or later you will forget one of the lies you’ve already told and then you look surprised when you get caught.
Lies of omission are much harder to detect, at least at the beginning. That’s because there’s no paper trail to follow, no pattern to get caught up in. But these kinds of lies actually create more problems and undermine the liar far more than a simple fib. Because sooner rather than later someone will catch on that you haven’t shared the truth and then the interrogation will begin. Like when did the President know and why didn’t he do something about it? The facts of the case quickly become less important than the cover-up. There’s never a good outcome to these situations.
Anything less than clean and direct honesty also takes a toll in the workplace. Direct lying is of course a reasonable cause for discipline and dismissal, but not telling all you know about a situation or problem or trying to withhold or conceal information has led to disastrous results and direct financial losses for many companies and organizations and can have a far greater impact than even open dishonesty.
That’s because workplaces like all spheres of society rely on two things. The free exchange of reliable information and trust. If the information is faulty, flawed or manipulated then all actions and decisions that flow from this information will be equally flawed. And if trust breaks down or is even in doubt, then both the message and the messenger become suspect and the consequences are almost sure to be a loss of business for the enterprise.
One of the great fibbers of all time, Mark Twain, once said, “When in doubt, tell the truth”. That simple adage holds more water today than ever. To that notable quote I would add my own appendage. “If you know something about a situation, tell somebody else”. Withholding information has never protected anyone in the past and unless you want to risk your personal reputation and the trust that people have placed in you, always tell the truth.
Mike Martin is the author of the Windflower Mystery Series and “Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People”. For more information please visit http://www.changethethingsyoucan.wordpress.com