IT Employment

General discussion


A Time And Place For Deception?

By FirstPeter ·
I've been a TR member for many years, but really only recently became active on the discussion boards (vs. Q&A). And while I enjoy, thoroughly, the discussions and hearing other people's points of view on (almost) every thread, there is one theme I'm seeing throughout a number of different posts in a number of different areas and I thought I'd get your take on it.

As you can tell by the topic, that theme is deception. It may be simply a "white lie"; it may be intentional misdirection or even flat out "bull", but either way I wanted to get you, the venerable members of TR, to weigh in on this question:

"When, if ever, is it okay to not be honest when dealing with a:

Is there a time when you would treat one differently than another?

I'm not really looking for specific instances (e.g., "It was okay to tell a white lie to the boss the day Joe brought in the fifth of vodka") but more "conceptual" guidelines that you follow.

I look forward to your thoughts!

This conversation is currently closed to new comments.

Thread display: Collapse - | Expand +

All Comments

Collapse -

In our culture

by gene.fellner In reply to A Time And Place For Dece ...

It is considered proper to lie to people who have authority over you. We really are a people with democracy in our hearts. Relationships between unequals bring out the worst in us.

Cops, teachers, parents, bosses, the IRS, we think it's perfectly OK to use deceit to try to manipulate their behavior because they have power over us that we can't challenge in any other way. We even tend to feel that way about large corporations. Intuitively we understand that Adam Smith's free market was intended to be populated by players of more or less equal power, not individuals going up against corporations with sales figures equal to the GDP of Bangla Desh.

Where it's not proper to use deceipt for purposes of manipulation is among equals. Your friends, your co-workers, your partners, your suppliers and customers in the small business arena, your spouse and other loved ones. You're expected to be able to build honest relationships with them. If you find yourself lying to them you have to stop and figure out why. Do they have disproportionate power over you so you have to manipulate them the way you did your parents? If so, what's wrong with the relationship?

So the short answer to your question, limited to a business context is: Boss yes, agents of the government yes, agents of megacorporations possibly yes. Employees probably yes if you're sure they agree with this paradigm and are lying to you. Partners no, clients no unless you can invoke the megacorporation rule.

I'm not suggesting any of this is either Right or Wrong. It just Is.

Collapse -

The Million Dollar Question

by FirstPeter In reply to In our culture

Interesting response - I see a lot of that in what I'm reading on posts and what I've experienced the last 15 years in the business world.

A lot of this stems from an absolute dislike of having to deal with contracts that cover every little T&C. Where are the good old days when a handshake was sufficient? I'm actually blessed in this respect - my clients are primarily of the handshake variety, where a quick e-mail outlining what I am going to do and an e-mail or voicemail back saying "go for it" are sufficient to get everything done. But you can't do that if there's any level of distrust present, and lying breeds distrust.

That being said, I think you nailed culture on the head in your response - it really reflected what I'm used to seeing. But it breeds the real million dollar questions:

1. Why is it that we treat our bosses/government/big corporations/employees differently than we do our partners/clients/loved ones?

2. If we treated everyone the same (preferably in a trusting relationship) would that REALLY solve anything?

3. And finally, if the answer is that it would solve significant problems (like lawsuits, etc.) what's the real root cause of why we're not getting there?

Obviously it's purely philosophical, but heck - what's better than philosophical questions on a nice June week? Aside from sipping a nice J&C on a hammock on the porch under a sunny sky and light breeze watching the waves roll up the beach, of course.

I'm really interested - this question has plagued me quite a bit. I'm sure there are some folks in the psych* industry that would have a heyday with this, but I'm really after the folks who do the real day-to-day work, not some interpretation of why this all stems from a childhood experience when I put my pants on backwards.

Collapse -

So Gene's Saying

by DMambo In reply to The Million Dollar Questi ...

that we use deception at times as a way of exacting revenge of some sort when we have no other means to do so?? With no (or miniscule) authority over how Uncle Sam conducts business, we cheat on our taxes. When our employers require us to work OT on a project, we call in sick the next week.

I never considered it this way, but I will now to see if this theory holds up.

Collapse -

I face the same, but my reactions often...

by Zen37 In reply to The Million Dollar Questi ...

...cause me trouble.

I was raised in a very strict environment where i was told that you do not lie, ever. So i get very angry when someone lies to me or takes advantage of the fact that i don't lie myself.

I believe that honesty is the best policy, but almost no one i know believes in that too.

I get in trouble at work when decisions are made for political or power reasons and there is no logic to it. I tend to get angry when that happens and i unfortunalty cannot hide my discontent.

I strongly believe that the world would be a better place if you could actually trust people to do what they say and say what they do. If you know you are doing something dishonest, then be ready to face the concequences.

That's the way i choose to live my life. It's not easy, but i sleep very well at night, thank you. I have no fear of apologizing for mistakes made. I just wish i knew more people who felt the same way.

Collapse -

Same Way

by FirstPeter In reply to I face the same, but my r ...

I was raised that same way, but I also realize (unfortunately) that others have different approaches. That's actually why I posted this thread - it bothers me when I end up on the tail-end of a lie (and worse when I find myself participating in it), but I deal with it and I wanted to see how everyone else does it and what their thoughts are.

I would agree that a completely honest world would be a better world because then there's no question about motive or backstabbing or whatever. I'm free to do my job and not worry about whether someone is plotting against me unbeknownst to me. Oh, what a world!

So now, Zen, what about why people don't go there? If the general feeling is that a completely honest world is a better place, what keeps people from being completely honest? Is there any hope that we'll get there at all?

Collapse -

Why? Because it's hard.

by Zen37 In reply to Same Way

I find that a lot of people like to do what is easier. It's hard to be totally honest, to do what you should and suppose to do. It's a lot easier to simply lie about it.

But i believe that they are cheating themselves when they do that. Life is suppose to be hard, it's what makes it worth living. An honest reward for honest work, now is there anything more valuable in life than that.

But nooooo, it's so much easier to lie about it. I listen to a report on ABC news the other day that was asking why are so many students in High School and University cheating. The anwser is simple, because it's easy.

I can't wait to go to the hospital one day and here the doctoc say, "Man i wish i haden't cheated on that Tracheotomy paper in school, now i don't know what i'm doing..."

We seem to be teaching the next generation that it's ok to cut corners, it doesn't matter if you don't do a good job, just as long as it doesn't show at the end, you're ok. Don't work so hard, just work enought to get your check and go home. In the long run, we end up with a half @ss world, half finished, and people have the gull to ask what happen.

I am very disapointed at my generation for becoming so complacent with life and values (and this has nothing to do with religion). The next really is not inspiring any hope for me either.

Collapse -

Oh Man, Why Do You Ask A Question Like This One??

by DMambo In reply to A Time And Place For Dece ...

If I'm being the person that I really want to be, then I have to answer that it's really never OK to lie. If you respect your own sense of integrity you'll probably feel that a lie hurts you more than anyone else.

That being said, I personally live in a f***k*d up place I like to call the "real world". I'm sure you've heard of it. Here, I find myself telling the occasional little white lie. I hate doing it and I recognize that I'm not smart enough to risk letting the whoppers out with any regularity. Any sharp cookie like Maxwell Edison or Absolutely or my wife would be able to poke through my veil of deceit in minutes.

To answer you question, IMHO if a lie will not hurt or might even prevent injury to others (the "no, that doesn't make your *** look fat" variety) then maybe it's OK. If the consequences of getting caught in the lie will damage your reputation in any way, stay away from it. If you have even the smallest shread of love or respect for the other party, honesty really is the best policy. If you are setting an example of how to operate a business, be a faithful spouse, or raise a child, you want to be thought of as being someone to emulate.

It's such a tough question because it forces us to look deep inside ourselves. In the future, can't we just stick to discussions how our bosses drive us crazy? :)

Collapse -

These Kind Of Questions

by FirstPeter In reply to Oh Man, Why Do You Ask A ...

I think I was feeling a little more philosophical when I posted this than I normally do. Usually I'm more on the hands-on side, but I saw so many "you should just give people an answer they want to hear" and "BS is okay if..." answers to other questions I just couldn't resist.

I was hoping this would generate a little more feedback - perhaps it's too philosophical for a week like this. I'll just have to wait until the "my pointy-haired boss did this..." discussions hit a lull.

Collapse -


by DMambo In reply to These Kind Of Questions

I saw this thread and expected it to generate a couple of thousand posts. TR should pick it up as a Featured Discussion. They often don't last long enough in the New category to reach critical mass.

Collapse -

I agree

by FirstPeter In reply to Surprising

This is one that I really think would be an eye-opener for folks, but beyond that would generate some really good discussion. And I don't think it would degenerate into a flame war (like several other threads I've been in) - I think we'd get some really good points of view going.

What's your take on Zen's post about why people wouldn't go to a "better" place if 100% honesty is indeed a better place?

Related Discussions

Related Forums