People lie once every ten minutes. What is this costing your company?

It has been said that we live in a culture of lies—white lies, exaggerations, misrepresentations and outright deceptions. In fact, Robert Fieldman has recently published a book that demonstrates that the most popular people are the ones who lie most often. Plus before people know each other will they tend to lie once every ten minutes. My question is: how will that effect business success or failure?

I’ve seen that lying is one of the most destructive forces in a business. One of the leading offenders is the way an organization engages in self-deception. An organization will collectively kid itself in the interest of moving forward.

Consider this scenario: You are running a company. You are likely a strong personality or you wouldn’t have had a good deal of success already. You have a new idea, and because you are a good boss with a great staff, you ask for your employees’ input. They support the major thrust of whatever you describe, raising minor objections. You head back to your office to begin an implementation plan.

Now imagine the potential reality: your employees have high mortgage payments, a kid or two, and increasing credit card debt. They also hold the belief that their next raise will be tied to being a popular “team player” so they withhold awkward but insightful criticism. Your business slowly fails because the truth will put your employees’ immediate futures at risk.

Everyone in this scenario is trying to be the good guy. But in reality, the good guy employee would risk his or her raise. The owner who’s a really good guy would demand truth and create a culture of honesty—rewarding smart, respectful, and comprehensive thinking.

On the other extreme, I’ve seen the opposite problem in a company whose motto was “challenge the process.” It’s not a bad idea, but in practice it created a culture of naysayers. If you were brave enough to agree with anything, you risked not living up to the motto. It paralyzed the organization. Large-scale projects could not get off the ground effectively because company-wide support was impossible to achieve. The motto, unfortunately, ended up creating a company-wide agreement to sustain a different sort of self-deception: “The system or ideas we have proposed cannot be right if I’m going to live up to the motto and get my next raise.”

Clearly, it takes humility, courage and, of course, honesty to find out how lying might be damaging your business.