The False Truth
Truth is the foundation of a healthy partnership. No rocket science there. Movies like “Lage Raho Munnabhai” help reinforce our appreciation for the timeless ‘Truth’ principles. Particularly when it comes to personal relationships where the stakes are high, shying away from deceit comes natural to us.
However, what about business partnerships? For sometimes a naked truth in professional dealings can be a recipe for disaster. Therefore, 21st century pragmatism has taken over—“Naked Truth” is passé, “Controlled Truth” is in. This new version of truth is one where ‘you don’t lie, but don’t make a full disclosure either’. This way you are playing a fair ethical game. Or is that so?
Once, there was a sailor who worked on the same boat for three years. One night he got drunk. This was the first time that it ever happened. The captain recorded it in the log, “The sailor was drunk tonight.” The sailor read it, and he knew that this comment would affect his career. So he went to the captain, apologized, and asked the captain to add that it only happened once in three years which was the complete truth. The captain refused and said, “What I have written in the log is the truth.” The next day it was the sailor’s turn to fill in the log. He wrote, “The captain was sober tonight.” The captain read the comment and asked the sailor to change or add to it explaining the complete truth because this implied that the captain was drunk every other night. The sailor told the captain that what he had written in the log was the truth!
There are no lies in either of the above statements; yet, interestingly, the half-spoken truths have painted an even more untruthful picture. You see, vanilla-lies can still be caught, but it is very difficult to scrutinize twisted-facts!
While the relevance of the above story is for all professionals, it is more so for managers. A manager’s primary role is to play the communication conduit between stakeholders. A customer deserves an honest delivery status at all times—after all, he pays for it. A manager’s manager deserves a truthful insight of project health and customer criticisms—he owns the rolled-up accountability. The team members deserve a frank feedback on all aspects of their performance—their career aspirations depend on improving on the weak points.
It’s not merely about ethics. Indeed, ‘Honesty is the best business policy.’ Of course, such principles can’t really be formulated in ‘policies’, they need to breeze into the organization’s culture. A note like this is merely an attempt to let loose one such reminding breeze.