Lies, Damned Lies & Statistics

October 1, 2013

The phrase above is often attributed to Mark Twain but Twain himself attributed it to the 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. I am using it as my heading today as it seems highly appropriate as you will see.

I was literally stunned to read that in recent research published by the CMI (Chartered Management Institute) it appears that ‘lies’ are a constant in UK workplaces with almost one in three workers (circa nine million people), reporting they tell at least one lie a day at work! 2,000 people took part in the research consisting of 1,000 managers and 1,000 non-management staff.

The research highlighted managers as the worst ‘lie’ culprits, with 35.4% telling a lie at least once a day, compared to 25.3% of other workers. Managers were also much more likely than other staff to tell lies in order to advance their career (29.4% compared to 13.3%). In an oxymoron (ethical lies?) comparison managers thought it was important to be seen as ethical at work (66.4%) compared to other staff (54.0%).

For me the scariest statistic of all is this one: When asked “Do you think your manager sets a good moral example?” 80% said NO!

As a result of the research the CMI is calling on managers to change with three simple steps:

  • Lose the lies: foster a culture of openness and transparency. Be honest and acknowledge when mistakes are made – but commit to resolving them quickly and decisively.
  • Champion accountability: reward people for doing the ‘right thing’, particularly if it would have been easier for them to do otherwise. Hold people to account where standards slip.
  • Set standards: use common standards so everyone can be clear about the conduct that’s expected of them. Communicate clearly and check you’ve been understood.

It strikes me that these suggestions are all about the leader or manager dictating standards to other people rather than tackling the key issue of personal integrity themselves. I have witnessed managers that insist staff stay motivated and productive right through to 5pm on a Friday afternoon, but then leave early themselves to ‘beat the traffic’.

If lies are endemic in business then it follows that there must be lack of ‘trust’. As we learn from Stephen M R Covey’s book The Speed of Trust, low levels of trust slows business down and high levels speeds it up!

Here are his three key points:

  • Trust is an economic driver not just a social virtue
  • Trust is the number one competency of leadership
  • Trust is a learnable competency

I fully agree with Covey and can’t help but feel that in the coming year’s more and more emphasis will be put on people’s integrity at work. In my own experience and with my background in sales I have always found that an open and honest dialogue wins more, more often than being economical with the truth.

If you catch yourself about to tell a lie at work then remember this blog and stop!

Many thanks

Stuart Allen

Trainer & Consultant at MTD Training

(Image by Joel Carela Photography)

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