I have written articles and blogs over the years that speak to a trend I’ve encountered in the recruiting process, in which people tell gross exaggerations at best and blatant lies at worst about their experience and credentials. This trend toward lying goes not only for job candidates but also clients, competitors, and vendors.
Can’t some enterprising Millennial design an app that sits on a mobile device to detect lies, similar to the Health app on my iPhone? Wow, would this be helpful. But lying is so rampant in our society, it has become fashionable—even a kind of sport. If our political, spiritual, and business leaders can get away with it, why wouldn’t others try? Well, they are. Plus, it seems like the more outlandish the lie, the better.
Lying in the business world and beyond
Lies or untruths come in many forms. False claims about products, unashamed inaccuracies within news stories (yes, the conservative and liberal arms of the media are both guilty regarding the spreading of falsehoods), the fabrication of credentials, and restaurant reviews written by the restauranteurs themselves. The list is endless.
Scanning recent headlines, I read about issues related to false food ingredient claims, the fudging of corporate financial information, the college admissions scandal and, of course, the noise surrounding the Mueller investigation.
In our firm, recruiting professionals have been relegated to operating with a high degree of skepticism when evaluating job candidates—people are guilty until proven innocent. On the business side, we have encountered false information employed by competitors claiming to have offices in multiple cities when, in fact, those offices are nothing more than “shadow” PO boxes.
The fine line between white lies and full-fledged lies has blurred. Who are these liars? How do they live with themselves? Do they think we are stupid, gullible, or both? What are we teaching our children? Wake up, people! Why don’t we care? What happened to decency, honesty, and civility? Most important, how can we reverse this trend?
Reputations and careers
Obviously, being caught in a lie in the workplace can derail a whole career. This is especially true for people earlier in their careers. It is our experience that it’s hard to shake or to make amends for the discovery of being caught in an untruth. It’s like that bad restaurant that people will speak about over and over again. The liar has no idea his or her reputation has been compromised. If discovered, the best advice is to come clean and try to repair the damage such a scenario has created.
Reputations are built over time, not manufactured in a nanosecond using the unreliable Internet. We certainly live in a complex world, and it is important more than ever before to know with whom we are dealing.
In my company’s world of recruiting, we are trusting the verifiable human element rather than taking things at face value or through unsubstantiated sources. As such, we perform references when hiring people; verify track records and performance metrics from real, live sources; and triple-check vendor/client reputations.
In terms of building general business and personal ethics, I recommend reading Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, as composed by French Jesuits in 1595. It was this composition of 110 rules that George Washington copied by hand and committed to memory as a youth, providing a foundation of behavior that served him throughout his life. These rules remind us to always act with decency. Talk about refreshing.
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