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Truthfulness in Business

May 24, 2013
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Truth in BusinessI hate lies, and I hate being lied to.  I’m sure most of feel this way.  We’d like to think that information given to us – whether by word of mouth or in written form – is truthful.  But do we tell the truth when we pass information on to others?  In a survey carried out in Germany, the vast majority of responders felt that “lying on minor issues in order to protect oneself or to protect others from harm is permissible, yes, even necessary so that people get along with one another.”  And one journalist wrote:  “To tell the truth and only the truth at all times is a noble ideal but boring.”

Could it be that we prefer that other people speak the truth yet feel we at times have good reason not to speak the truth ourselves?  Does it matter whether we tell the truth or not?  What are the consequences of speaking what is not true?

Damage Done by Untruth

Consider the damage that untruth can do.  Falsehood breeds distrust.  Unfounded gossip can damage a person’s reputation.  Cheating by employees raises operating costs and results in more expensive products.  False claims on tax returns rob governments of needed revenues to provide public services.  Fabrications by researchers ruin promising careers and tarnish the reputation of respected institutions.  Dishonest get-rich-quick schemes divest gullible investors of their life savings or worse.  Widespread lying can cause damage both to individuals and to society as a whole.

Why the tendency to lie?

Greed and selfish ambition are still very much the motives that impel many people to lie.  Greedy business and corrupt politics are full of deception, manipulation, falsehood and fraud.  People are motivated to get ahead, to reach out for wealth and power to which they are not entitled.  Another factor behind lying is fear – fear of the consequences or of what others may think if the truth is told.  It’s natural for people to want to be liked and accepted.  Sometimes though this desire may motivate them to distort the truth, cover up shortcomings and hide unflattering details.  Sometimes their only goal may be to leave a good impression.

What are the benefits of truthfulness?

Truthful speech is marked by durability and permanence.  Human relationships are more stable and satisfying when people are committed to speaking the truth and acting in harmony with it.  Indeed, truthfulness brings immediate rewards.  These include a clean conscience, a good reputation, and strong relationships in marriage, in the family, among friends and in business.

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