honesty in moderation

Unless something annoying/interesting has happened at work during the week, my usual starting point for an Office Politics post is a cruise through reddit.com:¬†generally not fruitful, but always entertaining. For example, this morning I discovered that there are products specifically designed to hide puffy nipples on men, and that certain bodily fluids can activate the touchscreen on one’s smartphone.

The puffy nipples discussion was well-debated – so the men out there should not be ashamed to head into the nearest lingerie store and buy some nipple pasties. These are, apparently, preferable to duct tape. Although I imagine that most things in that area are preferable to duct tape.

But eventually, in the needadvice subreddit, I found the inspiration for this post. Here is the question posed to the world by wolfreak_99:

‘I got fired for “sexual harassment” over a year ago. Should I say I have no job experience, or should I keep trying to be honest?’

(Apparently, an ex-best-friend threw him under the bus “to save her from bad attendance.”)

Well, obviously, the answer is “Just don’t say anything.”

Being Economical With The Truth

The hyper-religious will probably get all knotted up about my feelings on this: but I really don’t think that truth should be flaunted about so self-righteously. Mainly because I think that we confuse two things:

  1. Honesty; and
  2. Someone’s right to it.

Those are not the same thing. If you ask me a question, it is still up to me to decide whether or not you’re entitled to the answer. And if I decide that you’re not entitled to it, then I am exercising discretion.

And as to whether I’m meant to be transparent or discrete, we’re now moving into integrity territory. I’m totally on board with integrity – but I do not believe that it demands blatant honesty in all situations…

Honey, how do I look in this dress?

Honest answer: Offensive.

Discrete answer: Darling, you know that I’m not the one that has to wear it.¬†

And Actually, It’s All About Outcomes

Putting hellfire to the side briefly, there are real-time consequences to blatant dishonesty. Being dishonest tends to make one more suspicious of what other people say, so you get sucked into paranoia where everyone has to “prove” themselves and you want some dirt on them as insurance. And then, obviously, there’s reputation risk.

Given that, honesty in a business environment should be calculated: a considered weighing up of consequence versus relative benefit. Most times, you’re better off with transparency. But occasionally, you might benefit from less of it.

The classic example:

“We’re letting you go because we’re restructuring.”

As opposed to:

“We’re firing you because you make everyone around you unhappy, and honestly, we just want a pleasant working environment.”

The second option will cause unnecessary angst for everyone concerned (except for the lawyers) – so why create it?

And even if it makes me suspicious of other people trying to ease the truth – I’d rather have that than being told that I’m a pill which everyone else is tired of swallowing*.
*Almost certainly the case – but I’m comfortable with it.

As For Mr Wrongfully Accused..

Some possible outcomes:

1. If you keep telling everyone about your last job, then you probably won’t get another one.

2. If you stop talking about it, and a prospective employer finds out about it, then you probably won’t get the job. But you’re no worse-off.

3. If you stop talking about it, and you get a job, then you have a job.

And if you really did sexually harass your ex-bestie, then I’m pretty sure that your next firing will have nothing to do with lying…