Sunday, April 17, 2011

Honesty is Always the Best Policy

Or is it? Andy and I noticed a fairly larger direct deposit in our checking account from work back in January that was inconsistent with our normal earnings. Upon looking into it more, we realized there was a mistake. We did not deserve this money. We received way more than we should have! Could it be a blessing from the Lord? Could it be a tender mercy? Or... could it be a simple mistake?

We decided it only made sense to report the over earning that was not rightly ours. So with that decision, I moved forward to call and report the overpayment. After numerous long and very excruciating phone calls to the Shared Service Center, I was advised that I owed the Firm more than just the overpayment. They were wrong. I looked at the info over and over and no matter how many times I reviewed it, reconciled it and analyzed it, they were wrong. Determined, I called Shared Services back and reported THEIR error. Three calls later (and three months also!), they finally concluded that they did not have enough information and would need my HR representative to call in with more details.

Now normally that would not be an issue and I would not hesitate. But there is one time during the year when HR is overwhelmingly busy and that one time, for almost every HR person that exists... is annual performance review time. And guess what time period we are in right now? So now, I've created more work for my HR on top of her already very demanding schedule and tight deadlines and she is asking me.. "how did this come up" while I try to explain I was just trying to be honest. ..... ... ...

So is honesty always the best policy?

I tend to think yes because as horrible as the situation has become, as much as I did not want to punt the problem into her court, the commitment to be honest builds character and lends to a routine lifestyle of integrity.

There's often a debate that small white lies meant to protect everyone, are simply harmless. I would generally disagree. Those lies are just perpetuating a cycle of justification, a means to help us convince ourselves that our less than honest response was okay. And then we continue onto other larger, but still small white lies. And soon, we are tangled in a web of dishonesty, unable to break away from the mastery of deceit we have created for ourselves!!! Okay.. maybe I'm exaggerating just a little. ...

But, I will give one example I heard at Church today.. one example of a "gray" situation where lying was described as an okay response. The story goes like this: For one lady's job, she was in charge of determining whether the temp would be hired for full time after an initial time commitment. She decided one temp candidate would not be a good fit and was not intending on hiring her. She then received a call for a job application this temp was applying for elsewhere and was struggling with whether or not debrief on the temp's characteristics which contributed to her own decision not to hire her. She was relieved that she was not asked if she would recommend this person for hire, and instead spoke only to her positive attributes (which she subsequently gave light on the fact that the over abundance of her quiet and reserved manner made her hard to work with on a team and an unfit leader for the group - but only to us, not to the reference seeker). But, she concluded, she did not lie, and, she continued, she helped the temp get a job and simply only spoke to the truths that she knew of.

Let me just say - sometimes when you hear things you disagree with - you have to quickly decide whether to comment or to just digest it. I personally.. was shocked. That, in my book, is a complete and absolute lie. And maybe because I am dealing with difficult staff, feedback and performance issues on a daily basis, and maybe because I myself am trying to hire more capable candidates for my team and maybe because if I were in the shoes of the person calling, I would feel - quite frankly - manipulated. So maybe I'm a lil closer to her example than most people, but I think it's fair to say, leading people in any way to believing something that is not true, is dishonest and in this particular situation, I think she was dishonest and I do not think it's a gray situation. I am not one to stay quiet, and had there been enough time, I was about to make a comment (even at the risk of offending this nice woman) but I decided I'd rather get out of class on time (it's hot, I'm pregnant, I need to pee ALWAYS, you get the point).

But this is what I wish I would have had the patience and courage to say. I would have recommended her to give the inquirer the positive attributes she noted, and then comment that in full disclosure, these attributes did not help her succeed in this particular environment but given some coaching and help, she may have had the potential opportunity to demonstrate she could have been better. I don't know the entire situation - maybe they did try to help her and she failed, but I do know that in her perspective, she has helped this temp obtain a new job. Yay! One that if she is not a good fit for, she will loose eventually. Boo! Get my drift?

It's hard to have a difficult conversation with someone telling them that the job just ain't cut out for them. Trust me.. it's my job and it ain't easy. I have to daily tell staff that frankly, their work is not consistent with the expectations, give them meaningful but hard feedback and tell them if they've been kicked off a job and to shape up or get out. I have had to tell staff that they are unfortunately, dressed unprofessionally or not developing relationships the way they should be in order to succeed. Nobody likes hearing they suck. But who likes thinking they're the best when in reality, everyone thinks you suck? Which would you prefer?

Let's face it - there are a ton of situations that are hard to be honest in. When my mom asks me if I've eaten any watermelon, it's a lot easier to lie that I have not! When my good friend asks me if I like her new purse that she spent a lot of money on that I am quite frankly not a fan of, it's a lot easier to say, "How cute!" And when I spend all day cooking a new dish and Andy rates it as a mediocre dish, it is hard! And it should be - telling the truth is hard sometimes! But there is a benefit to it.

Before we think that we are the exception every time and justify to ourselves why our little white lie is harmless, we should think of how we would feel given we were in the shoes of the person we're about to white lie to. My mom will have to understandably acknowledge that I can't follow every single piece of advice she gives me, even if in her mind, it is for my benefit. My friend has to respect that our tastes are different, and if she likes the purse that her hard earned money went towards, who cares what I think?! And, I'd much rather know Andy is not a fan of the dish so I won't make it again and can try other things. But the truth is, honesty is always the best policy, we just have to be cognizant of how we deliver the truth, how we approach it, and make sure that we are striving to be more honest.

Part of that is learning to be pure in thought. You can't just confuse being honest with being blunt, and criticizing others for every wrong you see, ever disagreement you have. It's sort of like training our minds not to criticize in a mean manner so that when someone asks us what we are thinking, the truth is not some harsh reality of how mean we are. So .. almost as if your thoughts are pure and loving, not bitingly sarcastic and hurtful so that being honest about who you are is not a difficult thing to do.

Early on in the pregnancy, when we had not told a soul about the baby growing inside my tummy, my brother-in-law sensed something was up. We were with the family getting ice cream when he boldly demanded, "Are you guys pregnant?" and my cute husband, shocked and unable to tell even a small white lie then, just stared with his deer caught by a headlight gaze while I blurted out, "No, of course not!" It was so easy for me to tell that white lie while Andy just gave it away with his face and continued eating his ice cream. That incident made me think about the little white lies that we tell so easily without thinking there is any harm. And really, there won't be sometimes! But we should at least consider the potential of both sides before we do tell a lie because honesty is always the best policy! Yes, even the best of policies are broken for special one time circumstances - just make sure your exception makes sense before you do so. I know all I can do is make sure the Spirit is with me when I am the exception and aim to make honesty a habit.

1 comment:

Kara @ Just1Step said...

I'm going to have to agree with you that even white lies seem wrong. The Bible says not to lie, and therefore it seems to me that no fib is excusable before God. I struggle even with lying for a surprise party. Some people might think I'm ridiculous for that, but it digs at my conscience.