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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Coppola

Is there anything wrong with being dishonest at work?

“Honesty is as rare as a man without self-pity” So wrote American Poet, Stephen Vincent Benet almost 100 years ago. You may agree that little improvement has been made since then in regards to the public’s respect for honesty and its value. Dishonesty is not only prevalent with the general public, but also in workplaces too.

To many employees, the belief is that honesty pays, but not enough. To survive in a tight job market, many feel that they need to lie or bend the truth to get anywhere in life. But is that the case? Does being deceitful, dishonest and untruthful at work really the answer to gaining success? In this article, we are not just referring to small amounts of dishonesty or bending the truth, we are talking about all types and degrees of dishonesty no matter how big or small they are.

There is no such thing as a white lie. A lie is a lie.

Any type of dishonesty is created by greed for some sort of dishonest gain. Greed leads to lying. But you may justify lying by reasoning to yourself that “it’s just work”. Many employees who lie to a customer or supervisor, end up placing the responsibility back on to them saying that it’s the customers end decision and “let the buyer beware” or that the boss doesn’t need to know the truth.

But, can a thief justify his robbery by saying “let the victims beware”? Of course not! Same with employment, if an employee is dishonest and gets ahead at work, they are just as bad as that thief. Both the thief and the worker have been dishonest.

The thief is dishonest by taking someone’s possessions without their permission and not asking them. The employee is dishonest because they held back information from the customer, knowing all too well that if they knew the truth, they would not have bought the product in the first place.

Unfortunately, many feel that being honest is a choice, and will choose to be honest or dishonest depending on what suits them at the time. Your co-workers may argue that they would not be successful in their job unless they were dishonest to some degree.  You may even be asked to lie to a customer to prevent them from being able to speak to a colleague or your boss. Some in the workplace who pursue dishonest activities will even seek to cover up their dishonesty and falsehood by lavishing everyone in the workplace with praise and gifts.

Short term benefits versus long term costs

Before you try and justify to yourself that you can be dishonest when it suits you, ask yourself the question: What is it that I want – a quick benefit or that which results in benefits that are lasting? The benefits you will get from being dishonest at work are likely to be short term. Take for example a builder who builds a house using cheap building materials and quotes a high price based on quality workmanship and materials. True, this builder may make an easy profit, but in the process he may lose a client and all their friends when the person finds out they were cheated. So really, the consequences of being dishonest at work will far outweigh the benefits it brings.

Respect and esteem in the workplace is not given but rather it is earned through honesty, hard work and dedication to the job. So if you build up a reputation for being honest and upfront in your work activities, you are likely to earn the trust and respect of your colleagues and supervisor. Take for example two car salesmen. If both were offering the same make of car and at the same price, but one salesman was known to be honest and the other known to be dishonest, who would you buy from? Well, you would be silly not to buy from the honest person.

You’ll also find that your colleagues will be more honest and upfront with you then they otherwise would. “To be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.” So wrote William Shakespeare. People appreciate honesty because it is hard to find.

But what if you find out that an employer is doing things at work which are dishonest, what should you do? Really in that instance, it is up to you whether you decide to remain in the job or leave. But in reality, escaping from dishonesty in the workplace will prove futile. Dishonest acts at work will follow you wherever you go. If your employer does not require you to do dishonest things at work, then it would be in your interest to stay in your current job and prove to your employer the value of an honest worker.


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