Dishonesty, The Truth

Morality, like art, means drawing a line somewhere.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Forbes Magazine calls a recent financial scandal “the shocking indictment of the culture of banks.” This time it involves unethical, illegal fixing of financial markets by the great names of banking. Barclays has admitted guilt in conspiring with the Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup.

These bankers have been caught manipulating the sacred market of the London Interbank Offering Rate, known as LIBOR – the rate the major banks of the UK and Europe charge to borrow funds from each other.

And, yes, that’s the same rate your home mortgage rate is based on. It’s no wonder a Gallup poll shows only 21% of Americans have a high confidence in US banks, the lowest figure in the past 30 years.

All this comes a few years after the financial crisis of 2008 which brought about a collapse in stock markets, mortgages, and a global recession we will feel for years to come.

These financial leaders feel they can be dishonest and get away with it. Perhaps it’s not only our leaders who play loose with rules and regulations. It’s time we look at ourselves and how each of us engages in dishonest behaviors.

Which leads me to ask, “Is everyone dishonest? Is it our human nature?” I think we engage in and tolerate a certain amount of “fudging”… and maybe we almost expect it to happen in business. At least that’s what some of my clients confide to me searching for ways to create a Culture of Trust in their work environments.

There’s a different kind of dishonesty (White lies) that goes on with just about everybody, not just a few bad apples.

We fudge expense and time reports, fake doctor’s appointments, and claim we’re ill when out on the golf course. We then cheat on our scores. We use our children as excuses for things we don’t want to do. Some of us even cheat on our state and federal income taxes.

In an effort to discover the truth about dishonesty, Duke Professor and best-selling author Dan Ariely has published a book exploring this subject and revealing what social scientists have discovered.

In The Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves, Ariely asks:

  • Is dishonesty restricted to a “few bad apples,” or is it widespread?
  • What factors curb dishonesty?
  • What are the psychological and environmental forces that influence honesty in our daily lives?
  • How do others influence us when it comes to right and wrong?

Everyone engages in dishonesty, some in small ways, some more than others. Most of it involves white lies and exaggerations, and most is perpetrated against faceless institutions. We tell ourselves it’s harmless and find good reasons to justify it.

What is your experience with dishonesty in day-to-day life, either at work or in your personal life? How do you deal with it? I’d love to hear from you.


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