Yet another inconvenient truth. We either do, or we don't. Which one are you?

I have recently become fascinated, if not obsessed, by the concept of ‘fake news’ and how it has become somewhat of a household name. One particular world leader has made it both a catch cry and go-to defense strategy for all negative suggestions against him. Of course, every positive thing is definitely not fake news.

So, have you ever lied about anything?

Before you answer that question out loud, I should mention that I recently read a great article in titled “10 Research Findings About Deception That Will Blow Your Mind”.

I found it fascinating to learn that there is a body of evidence collected from thousands of controlled scientific studies and field research projects about “deception”. 

Here are a few of my favourite interesting facts from the article:

  1. Humans are lied to as many as 200 times a day
    In a 2002 study by Robert Feldman of the University of Massachusetts (and there are others to support this), people told on average two to three lies in a ten-minute conversation.
  2. Humans detect lies with only 54% accuracy
    This is the result of 206 Academic Studies that involved 24,000 individual judgements of truths and lies. In other words, we don’t fare much better than a two-sided coin.
  3. Gorillas, fish, birds, even orchids engage in deception
    Once thought to be a human characteristic, it turns out that other species are also guilty. In one highly amusing example, the famous singing gorilla Koko blamed her pet kitten for an incident with a broken sink.
  4. Avoiding eye contact is the most presumed sign of lying around the world—even though it’s false
    Charles Bond found that 72% of people believed avoiding eye contact or averting gaze as a sign of lying. Too bad it’s not true. According to other research cited, people engaged in normal conversation only make direct eye contact 30-60% of the time.


Deception can often be a leadership dilemma

Let’s face it, it is easy for someone to make judgements about people who lie, even though the research above would indicate that very few of us can claim the moral high ground in this regard. Despite this, there are plenty in the Leadership Development and HR echo chamber that loudly scream about the virtues of ‘transparency’ and ‘truth’.
However, anyone who has walked in the shoes of a senior leader will have their own story about a time where a deliberate unveiling of the truth would have been both harmful and irresponsible. Given that business leaders are responsible for the overall well-being of both their company and those who are part of it, it can be a type of impossible dilemma. Hindsight is a harsh judge in this regard, despite the best of intentions.

Is the act of non-proactive disclosure the equivalent of lying or an act of deception? Possibly, but I will let the ethics experts debate this one. I can certainly see both sides of this coin.


Values - a line in the sand?

In the modern business era, the emphasis on corporate culture has gained its fair share of attention. Central to this theme is the notion of ‘standards’ and ‘values’ that act as continual guidance for words, actions and behaviours. These guidelines are often used in both recruitment and termination circumstances, and often underpin initiatives to improve engagement and experience.

It should be remembered that creating corporate values is a voluntary exercise. No leadership team is compelled to create corporate values from any higher authority (with the exception of perhaps the Board). They do it because it makes good commercial sense.

However if there is anything that “fake news” has taught us, it’s that there can be a marked difference between reality, and what people say is reality. In other words, just because a set of Corporate Values are displayed on a wall and form part of the Annual Report doesn’t necessarily mean they really exist.

Let’s take a worst case scenario. 

A company discovered they have an employer branding problem, and they engage a consultant to fix it.  The consultant sells the leadership team on the benefits of creating “values”, and they go through the expensive exercise of getting it done. With “values” in place and consultant invoice paid, everyone’s happy. Except, I guess for the people who are recruited into the company, and discover very quickly that they have been sold a lemon.
Is this lying? 

It would certainly struggle to pass the sniff test.


Walk The Talk, or don’t.

And here is the point.  Untimely, most things are binary.  We do, or we don’t.   If a company is going to make claims publicly about what they are all about (the talk), it should probably come with an intention to walk the talk. In particular, I am talking about things like “diversity”, “inclusion”, “equal opportunity”, and other common values that relate to ‘People’ and ‘Care’.

There are so many good companies out there who genuinely walk the talk, and therefore deserve the recognition.


Talk is cheap for those who don’t.

If your organisation is a values-oriented company and you are looking for a way to show the world about it, the Employer Brand Booster tool is for you.



About the author:


Jason Buchanan is the general manager for insights and innovation of Optimum Consulting Group, a trusted and leading HR consultancy firm in Australia. He is the brain behind Optimum Direct, a web portal of the best HR tools and software for small business. He is interested in finding solutions on how companies can continue to grow without destroying the things that are important to them (employees, customers, suppliers, reputation etc).