Watching the US presidential campaign leaves us all with one very clear message – both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have decided that being 100 per cent honest is not going to win them the election.
Instead the gloves are off, with both now experts at seemingly telling lies and half-truths on a daily basis. If these highly public presidential candidates are unable to act ethically and with honesty, can anyone be expected to anymore?
As a test let me ask you a simple question: how many lies have you told this week? A study carried out by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Robert Feldman over a decade ago showed that on average, in the space of just a 10-minute conversation, we tell two or three lies. Other more recent studies give varying results but all come to a similar conclusion – humans lie a lot.
Clearly, there are different sorts of lies. While some are small and insignificant, others are enormous and outrageous. But a lie is still a lie, even if we justify it as a well-intentioned “white” lie.
And the behaviour of the US presidential candidates is enough to make you wonder if cheating might actually be a short-cut to success. For those in the professional world, this could take many forms:
• Lying about your qualifications and work experience on your CV.
• Passing off other people’s ideas and work as your own.
• Creating fake salary paperwork when applying for a bank loan.
Sadly, many are happy to live with lies like this, saying they are only minor untruths or just a smart way to cheat the system. Say what you like, but if you head down this route your career success will be meaningless. Success without integrity is like building a house without foundations. At some point it will crack and the building will subside.
Stop fooling yourself
It is time to live with full integrity. From today, make yourself feel bad about lying and cheating. Allow your conscience to rise up and make you feel uncomfortable. Always speak the truth and, if you choose not to, be clear why. Always be honest with yourself. No more standing in the mirror and lying to the person staring back at you. The Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho put it so well when he said: “If you want to be successful, you must respect one rule – never lie to yourself”.
Every action has a consequence
If you are dishonest, just be ready for the consequences because eventually you may be caught out. Your house of cards might look fantastic, but could collapse in a split second. Your reputation, employment prospects or even freedom could be destroyed. No one looks at Lance Armstrong today and only sees a seven-time Tour de France winner. The thing about lying is that you can never know with certainty the risk of being discovered or the severity of the consequences. You could work your entire career pretending to have a university degree or be found out at your first job interview.
Turning a blind eye can be as bad
There may be times when you are asked, expected or encouraged to do or say something at work which you feel is incorrect, inappropriate or downright wrong. I am sure that you have experienced this. Examples might include:
• Lying to a customer about a delivery date commitment when your team knows the products will be late.
• Pretending to a supplier that future orders will be large to negotiate a lower purchase price today for a particular raw material or service, when you know the future volumes will be low.
• Knowing your colleague is paying a bribe to a client to help win an order.
Deciding to either ignore or speak up about such unethical behaviour will challenge you in terms of your character, ethics, integrity and morals. Only you can decide when are you willing and ready to stand firm and to do the right thing. Sometimes doing what is ethically and legally correct risks damaging your career with your current employer. If you need to seek advice and support, find yourself a mentor in your company – someone you trust with whom you can share your predicament. Alternatively, turn to someone outside the company you can trust.
Be ready to look for a new job
You cannot hope to be a person of integrity and be successful in a workplace where you are being put under pressure to be deceitful. Excelling at work is only possible if you feel you are in the ideal environment to truly express yourself and act with your desired levels of integrity and ethics. There may come a time when you feel the only option is to seek a new employer.
Nigel Cumberland is a Dubai-based leadership and executive coach, trainer, author and a founder of The Silk Road Partnership. His books include the recently published 100 Things Successful People Do: Little Exercises for Successful Living
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