Honesty is the Best Policy

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My mom always told me to tell the truth. The truth may not always be what you want to say or hear. As a manager, do I want to hear that a project is failing, or that there are some significant problems that will put our department in a negative light? No, but I would rather hear that than something inaccurate. Bad news isn’t always the worst thing in the world, and knowledge is power. Knowing the true state of something will allow me to prepare and respond accordingly. Someone who is honest is someone I respect, even if the news may be bad.

As someone new to the job market, it may be easy to be inaccurate on your resume or application. As job searches go on for longer periods of time, it may be tempting to claim that your role in a project or previous job was more significant than it really was. To make false statements or to claim roles and experience that you did not earn can backfire. When it does, you will violate their trust and put your reputation on the line.

Volkswagen-scandalA couple of recent examples immediately come to mind. On a corporate level, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen have made news. Whether or not the companies mandated false claims for mileage for some of their fuel efficient vehicles, or whether individuals took it upon themselves to falsify the reports, the fact is the companies are seen to have violated the trust in the consumers, which will resonate with consumers for decades.

Years from now, how it happened may not matter. All that will come to mind is that these companies lied to the consumers. Their trust is no longer what it once was. Companies can spend years trying to resurrect tarnished images. Ford is still remembered for the decision to not correct the problems with the Pinto. Union Carbide’s role in the Bhopal disaster, or more recently BP’s role in the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have tarnished their image. Decades may be required before some of the trust can be earned again.

The same principle holds true on a personal level. Lance Armstrong will never live past the performance enhancers he used while winning seven consecutive races in the Tour de France. Pete Rose, the leading hitter in baseball history, is still banned from the game due to his gambling on games. President Nixon never was never able to get past the Watergate scandal. These are famous individuals, but the same thing can haunt everyone.

To get a foot in the door under false pretenses can lead to a job, but the hardship of getting in over your head can be severe. The organization spends time and money hiring someone, only to have to let them go, and repeat the process months later. Projects can fail, and money can be lost. Worst of all, people can be laid off. Decisions all have consequences that may reach far beyond an individual’s reach. The company thinks they are getting someone to perform a valuable role, only to lose time and resources.

In a more networked age, reputations will more easily follow an individual. Burn a bridge, or get caught lying or falsifying your experience, you can make things more difficult for you down the road. Be honest and accurate, and if finding that first job, or something better than you have now, takes a bit longer, you’ll be better off because of it. Earn that job and feel good about it, you’ll be better off the long run.

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