The white lies you regularly tell your company's executives, so they think you like them, is understandable, says Dave Anderson, author of "How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK: A Biblical Blueprint to Bless Your Business," but not harmless. Not only are these fibs a reflection on your character—after all, lying is lying—they can open the door to bigger, darker, more destructive lies.
"White lies are the gateway drug to bigger offenses," says Anderson. "Get away with them and you're tempted to tell ever bigger ones. Eventually, your lies will catch up with you and will damage your relationships with clients, vendors, and employees. And in a business world that is already unstable, it's not a risk you should be willing to take."
Even more detrimental, says Anderson, is the effect white lies can have on one's own psyche. White lies work much the same as other types of "lesser" offenses, he says. You become desensitized to the feelings of wrongness and guilt, and, before you know it, you are finding ways to excuse other, more serious infractions.
"If you're going to start classifying lies as 'white' or 'whoppers,' you may as well categorize different levels of stealing too," explains Anderson. "The white lie version of embezzlement could be taking a few dollars worth of office supplies home with you, or mailing personal correspondence with company postage, or making personal copies on the company Xerox machine. Is that the standard you want to set for your employees?"
Anderson suggests you teach employees (and do the same yourself) work inside a "no lying zone" and insist your employees do the same. He offers the following tips:
- Tell the truth at all costs (literally!). You should tell the truth even when it is not easy, cheap, popular, or convenient. Selling a product at the right price (rather than a grossly inflated one you are pretty sure you can get away with) may cost you more in the short term, but dishonesty and deception can end up costing you much more in the long run, in your professional and personal lives.
- Don't give false impressions. When it comes to business, false impressions are everywhere. While you may not realize it, says Anderson, this is just another form of lying. He says you have to be upfront and honest with those you work with, or you may lose your credibility and build up bitterness and resentment in a once-valuable business relationship.
- Think about the ways you or your company may be misleading others, and find ways to stop it. Make sure you aren't spinning feedback to make someone feel as though they're doing better or worse than they really are. And don't mislead potential job candidates or employees about compensation, advancement, or future plans.
- Never ask someone else to lie on your behalf. This is an abuse of your power, position, relationship, and friendship, says Anderson. Asking an employee or colleague to lie for you can do permanent damage to your integrity and reputation, and it opens the door for them to lie to you, and those you do business with, as well.
- Beware of the four magic words. Anderson says there are four words that reveal lies are likely: Any sentence that begins with "Just tell him that..." usually is followed by a lie, he says. For example, "Just tell him the offer already has expired," or, "Just tell him this is the last one available at that price," are lies that may seem harmless on the surface but can lead to big trouble.