Truth in Organizations is Not Just a Matter of Opinion

OrthodoxyToday.org | Chris Banescu |October 3. 2007

Telling the truth is too often overlooked in business. Truth is the catalyst that should inform all management decisions and actions. It’s the foundation on which trust and integrity rest. Truth is the critical prerequisite that enables management and employees to make ethical decisions in the day-to-day activities of an organization.

Now when I speak of “truth” I mean the objective reality of our lives that we can all categorically agree with. This includes facts and information that cannot be disputed and are universally true whether or not someone chooses to acknowledge them. Some examples include: two plus two always equals four, water is necessary to sustain life, man has landed on the moon, companies must be profitable to remain in business, in a vacuum light travels at precisely 186,282.397 miles per second, and only 0.037% of our atmosphere is made up of carbon dioxide.

Truth does not include subjective opinions about situations and information that reasonable people can disagree with. For example, people can argue about how much personal freedom and individual rights we have in our democracy; the ocean can be described as being blue, blue-green, light-blue, or dark-blue in color; whether 80 MPH or 120 MPH is too fast to drive a car; how much exercise is needed to stay reasonably fit; and whether a Riesling or a Chardonnay wine should be served with fish.

Living in reality and dealing truthfully with yourself and those you come in contact with in an organization is a must. Subjective opinions with little basis in fact have no place in business and corrode the overall climate of an enterprise, undermine the integrity and authority of its leadership, and diminish the trust of its employees, customers and partners.

There are several important areas where truth must play a part in helping managers effectively lead and manage organizations.

Managers and executives must possess the strength of character and the necessary moral clarity to see themselves as they really are and be truthful in their own self-assessment. This requires them to have a brutally honest understanding of their actual strengths and weaknesses as leaders, a willingness to admit personal flaws and mistakes, and a determination to make the necessary changes for the better for the benefit of the long-term success of the business and in nurturing and promoting trust and integrity across the organization. Nothing destroys organizational cohesiveness and employee morale faster than egotistical managers with a flawed view of their own abilities, power, and status.

Executives must be truthful when communicating with the company owners or shareholders on the status of the business and other key organizational and strategic issues that impact the short-term profitability and long-term value of the business. Management owes a fiduciary responsibility to the business owners. They are entrusted with the task of ethically and efficiently managing and caring for the business and all its assets, including its most valuable — the employees, as if those money and assets were their own.

Management must be truthful in all dealings with employees. Their yes should mean yes, and their no should mean no. Superiors must be honest when communicating with employees, and also in motivating, admonishing, rewarding, promoting, or firing them. If management promises raises and bonuses for meeting and exceeding goals, then give them. If management asks for feedback, they should follow through on the suggestions received, otherwise don’t bother asking. If the company has hit hard times and everyone must make sacrifices, then management must warn employees and be the first in line to make a proportional sacrifice. If layoffs are planned, then let the people know ahead of time.

Truth is also indispensable in supporting ethical and strategic short-term and long-term decision-making at all levels of an organization. Executives must see reality as it really is. If they have no comprehensive knowledge and understanding of what is going on with their employees, company processes, financial condition, products or services, market share, competition, and fiscal and political environments, then management cannot reach the right conclusions and take the correct actions in managing. They also cannot effectively deal with day-to-day operations and insure the long-term profitability, growth, and success of the company.

Finally, management must deal honestly with their customers. This ought to include all sales, advertising, and marketing activities, be reflected in the quality and features of the products and services provided, and be a guiding principle in all customer service related actions. The promised features and benefits of the products or services sold should always be true. The warranties given should be fair and ethical, without countless exceptions and clauses that render them useless. Customer service departments must deal expediently and honestly with valid customer complaints and deliver on the assurances they give.

Tom Peters, the famed management guru, in his book Thriving on Chaos, expressed that companies should “demand total integrity.” He maintained that successful organizations have to shift from “an age dominated by contracts and litigiousness to an age of handshakes and trust.” Peters’ advice reinforces the critical nature of truth in organizations: “Set absurdly high standards for integrity – and then live them, with no fuzzy margins.”

Some may say that such lofty goals are good in theory but impossible to achieve in practice. Maybe that’s true, but that just shows how far we have strayed from the ideal. If truth is no longer the measuring stick of decisions and actions, then things are worse than we think. Is it any wonder that so many people don’t trust companies and executives anymore?

Chris Banescu is an attorney, entrepreneur, and university professor. He is a regular contributor to OrthodoxyToday.org, manages the conservative site www.OrthodoxNet.com, writes articles, and has given talks and conducted seminars on a variety of business and management topics. He has also written book reviews for Townhall.com and articles on Acton.org.

Comments

  1. Chris M. Purdef says:

    I just wanted to thank Brother in Christ, Chris for his articles. I have been reading and sharing them with my co-workers lately.

    It is amazing to me the ‘subculture’ that sometimes manifests itself in organizations/businesses/nonprofits; it can be very soul sucking. I work for a nonprofit organization, and I’m in awe as to how much of a negative, corporate mentality exists leading to almost paranoia in the workplace.

    As Christians, we talk a good deal about the evils of ‘big’ government, but not nearly enough about the perils that may befall us working for corporations. There are moments when I sincerely dislike myself at this job. I know therefore, I could be partially to blame.

    Just to end, perhaps we could share if there are any organizations out there devote their time to help curb unethical behavior in organizations. If so, I’d like to jump aboard.

    Forgive the intrusion,
    Chris Purdef

  2. Dean Scourtes says:

    All good thoughts, Chris. Your comments are timely, urgent and essential.

    However consider this: Former Federal Prosecuter Elizabeth De La Vega has drafted the mock-up of an indictment which would charge George W. Bush with “conspiracy to defraud the United States”, a federal crime.

    Ms. De La Vega writes:

    Legally, there are no significant differences between the investor fraud perpetrated by Enron CEO Ken Lay and the prewar intelligence fraud perpetrated by George W. Bush. Both involved persons in authority who used half-truths and recklessly false statements to manipulate people who trusted them. There is, however, a practical difference: The presidential fraud is wider in scope and far graver in its consequences than the Enron fraud.

    ..From the fall of 2001 to at least March 2003, the following officials, and others, made hundreds of false assertions in speeches, on television, at the United Nations, to foreign leaders and to Congress: President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his Under Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz. Their statements were remarkably consistent and consistently false.

    Even worse, these falsehoods were made against an overarching deception: that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks. If Administration officials never quite said there was a link, they conveyed the message brilliantly by mentioning 9/11 and Iraq together incessantly.

    ..It can hardly be disputed, finally, that the Bush Administration’s intentional misrepresentations were designed to interfere with the lawful governmental function of Congress. They presented a complex deceit about Iraq to both the public and to Congress in order to manipulate Congress into authorizing foreign action. Legally, it doesn’t matter whether anyone was deceived, although many were. The focus is on the perpetrators’ state of mind, not that of those they intentionally set about to mislead.

    The evidence shows, then, that from early 2002 to at least March 2003, the President and his aides conspired to defraud the United States by intentionally misrepresenting intelligence about Iraq to persuade Congress to authorize force, thereby interfering with Congress’s lawful functions of overseeing foreign affairs and making appropriations, all of which violates Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.

    http://www.commondreams.org/views05/1030-25.htm

    To be true to your comments above you should support the impeachment of George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney, followed by their immediate indictment and eventual imprisonment.

  3. So Dean S., the many lies and blatant exaggerations made by AlGore in his propaganda flick “An Inconvenient Truth [LIE]” don’t bother you? Strange indeed!

  4. Dean Scourtes says:

    Mr. Banescu: I suggest you pick up a newspaper this morning.

    After a year that saw only 3 inches of precipitation, Southern California is ablaze. Three hundred thousand people have been evacuated from their homes in San Diego County alone. On the other side of the country, officials in Georgia report that the reservoirs that suppliy water to the greater Atlanta metropolitan area have only a 3-month supply left.

    This is just a mild foretaste of what the consequences of global warming will be.

    I believe those who attacked Al Gore and attempted to confuse the public on global warming so as to obstruct efforts to remedial action will be viewed by future generations as some of the greatest villains in history.

  5. #4 Dean S

    I look forward to being included in the rogues gallery of villains that brought death and destruction to millions, oops, billions of the future generations.

    I thought that the whole problem was going to be too many storms? Just several weeks ago on this blog we were treated to dire warnings that the humidity of the global atmosphere was rising at astronomical rates. (Still waiting for super-science sleuth Jim Holman, with help from Lawrence Livermore, to explain how all that water got into the atmosphere) Anyway, more humidity in the air means more rain, not less. In fact, we have been warned, even this year, about FLOODS due to global warming, because somewhere in the world there is flooding right now.

    Now I know you are seizing your keyboard right now to reply that global warming will bring both drought and floods. Do you know the basis for this claim? UN Climate modelers run model #1 and it predicts droughts. Then they run model #2 and it predicts floods. Model #3 predicts floods in some places and droughts in others. The UN climate modeler says “look, there will be both floods and droughts”.

    However, the scientist or engineer who lives in the real world and retains some common sense says “none of the models work”, especially given that all metereology theory and experience says that extreme weather occurs in a colder world rather than a warmer world. And especially given that there has been no demonstrated increase in severe weather.

    Can’t you see that global warming is an all-purpose tool to frighten people and hence control them? “Too hot, too cold, too much rain, not enough rain? All due to global warming. Follow my orders.”

  6. Christopher says:

    Can’t you see that global warming is an all-purpose tool to frighten people and hence control them? “Too hot, too cold, too much rain, not enough rain? All due to global warming. Follow my orders.”

    By the post human elite. “Conditioners” C.S. Lewis called them…

  7. Dean Scourtes says:

    Tom: In fact, one model, the North Atlantic Oscillation can explain both simultaneous drought and flooding.

    The climate of the Atlantic sector exhibits considerable variability on a wide range of time scales. A substantial portion is associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), a hemispheric meridional oscillation in atmospheric mass with centers of action near Iceland and over the subtropical Atlantic. NAO-related impacts on winter climate extend from Florida to Greenland and from northwestern Africa over Europe far into northern Asia.

    Over the last 3 decades, the phase of the NAO has been shifting from mostly negative to mostly positive index values. Much remains to be learned about the mechanisms that produce such low frequency changes in the North Atlantic climate, but it seems increasingly likely that human activities are playing a significant role.

    When the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is in its positive phase, low-pressure anomalies over the Icelandic region and throughout the Arctic combine with high-pressure anomalies across the subtropical Atlantic to produce stronger-thanaverage westerlies across the midlatitudes. During a positive NAO, conditions are colder and drier than average over the northwestern Atlantic and Mediterranean regions, whereas conditions are warmer and wetter than average in northern Europe, the eastern United States, and parts of Scandinavia.

    Walker and Bliss (1) were among the first to recognize and study this pattern of climate anomalies, which is most pronounced during boreal winter (December through March). A remarkable feature of the NAO is its trend toward a more positive phase over the past 30 years, with a magnitude that seems to be unprecedented in the observational record.

    The North Atlantic Oscillation: Past, present, and future
    http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/98/23/12876.pdf

  8. #7 Dean S.

    I think you tripped up in your attempt to look erudite. The NAO is supposed to bring warm and wet weather to the Eastern US. In your post #4 you despaired that Georgia was in the clutches of drought and would run out of water in 3 months. Which is it?

    You are not the only one who tripped up. I just read that some people in Vermont think the fall colors are not vivid this year because of global warming. But the NAO is supposed to bring cold and dry weather to the region, etc. etc.

    This article by one of the world’s pre-eminent ecologists is a must-read. Note how he exposes his colleagues for purposely lying and exaggerating to achieve their social policy objectives. Christopher is on to something with the “Conditioners” idea.

    http://opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110010763

  9. Can’t you see that global warming is an all-purpose tool to frighten people and hence control them? “Too hot, too cold, too much rain, not enough rain? All due to global warming. Follow my orders.”

    Ok, but control us to do what? Who is trying to control us? Who are the conditioners? There are many instances in society where we can find corporations, governments, special interest groups are attempting to control some aspect of our lives…

    We either work against these accross the board, or not at all.