Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16)
Lying is one of those behaviors that is easy to see in others and can sometimes go unnoticed in our own work lives. I think it’s because when we think of lying we tend to think of those BIG lies – Nixon saying he’s not a crook, Kenneth Lay at Enron, Clinton saying he did not… well you know, etc. But as they say, the Devil is in the details, and if you dissect the workday it’s amazing how many opportunities there are to be less than honest.
As individuals we should evaluate how our behavior reflects the God we worship. We Christians are, as my pastor likes to say, God “reflectors” and nothing will reflect more poorly on him that when people see us speak lies. The opposite is also true, maintaining integrity in an environment that isn’t always a bastion of purity can win the hearts of those seeking something better (see 1Pet 2:11-12).
But we shouldn’t just think of lying as those un-truths that we tell as individuals. The most common form of lying that I’ve observed in my fourteen years in the workplace is people lying on behalf of the corporation. Since most of those years have been in marketing and sales, I’ve seen my share of exaggerated claims.
Marketing guru Seth Godin in his book All Marketers Are Liars (which is meant to be an ironic title since he doesn’t believe that) exhorts those of us who represent our organizations to do so in a manner that values authenticity. He says that somewhere along the way marketers in particular have gone down the wrong path by choosing “non-responsibility” as a mantra and that the effects on companies and our society has been devastating. He writes,
I refuse to accept that there’s a difference between a factory manager dumping sludge in the Hudson River (poisoning everyone downstream) and a marketing manager making up a story that ends up causing similar effects. Marketing is an awesomely powerful tool, and marketers share the same responsibilities everyone else does.
‘We’re just serving the market,’ ‘We’re satisfying peoples needs’ and ‘Adults have the right to make a decision about this’ are the words of a weasel. Crafting a story that tricks people into making short-term decisions they regret in the long run is the worst kind of marketing sin. Refusing to take responsibility for it afterward is just cowardice.”
It’s not just marketers lying about who our companies are. We all represent our company to customers, friends, potential employees and to our co-workers. Pretending that the company is as good as we aspire for it to be is not authentic. Want to make a difference in the workplace? Be the person that seeks to make the company live up to it’s promises, both internally and externally.