I hate to be the one to say it but there are too many liars out there. It comes so easily to so many and is celebrated so long as it leads to a win. I’ve been writing about increasing meanness. And along with that comes increasing comfort with dissembling. Today I heard the new Prudential ad. They’re going to be there in the “tough times.” I can tell you from first hand experience that isn’t the case. When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Prudential had an agreement with my employer to not charge for life insurance after disability, they decided not to honor their pledge. What do you say to people like that? I decided to challenge them. Forget it. They weren’t about to rise to the occasion in my family’s tough times. But they’ll tell you to your face now that they’ll be there for you. My comeback to that: “Sure you will.”
You have to wonder why so many organizations will tell you whatever sounds good. Are we abdicating our responsibility to insist that they demonstrate what they promise? Do we let them into our homes via technology whether they are honest or not? Why don’t we ask: Where’s the proof? Why are we so easily convinced? If you read Paul Krugman’s article “Civility is the Last Refuge of Scoundrels,” you know why it’s important to ask “What’s in it for them?” The nicer they seem, the more we should distrust. Behind seeming generosity and civility often lurks greed and contempt.
There are very good people in this world, but there are many willing to do whatever it takes to make a profit. They are the ones to whom we must repeatedly ask: “What’s in it for you?” Otherwise they can promise us anything. They are the ones we should teach our children to challenge.
In an article, “Courage at Work,” just reprinted in this Spring’s Harvard Business Review – On Point, I wrote of what it takes to stand up to people and organizations engaging in unethical conduct. Without this courage we invite into our lives people who don’t deserve our trust. It’s so much easier to just let them say what they want without challenge, to allow politicians to lie because that’s just politics. If you know what to say, how to challenge, then they don’t win as often. And maybe that’s enough.