Do most people agree that telling your boss what he wants to hear, and not the truth, constitutes a lie?

In a previous post, I listed ten questions geared at assessing the question “do you have a global mindset. John Scherer, from Wiser at Work,  made a webinar about these ten questions.

In my upcoming book Global OD-Ten Exercises, I shall provide detailed answers to these ten questions.

Yet the book is months away, so in the meantime,  here is an explanation for one of the trickier questions, “do most people agree that telling your boss what he wants to hear, and not the truth, constitutes a lie?

Many cultures value the collective more than the individual. In such cultures, the harmony and cohesion of the collective are served by strong and powerful leaders. In cultures, authoritarian leadership is accepted, respected and deferred to. Whilst there may be complaints about excesses of authoritarian style, few would prefer the  lack of harmony which arises due to weak leadership.

Harmony and cohesion in such cultures are more valued that the accuracy of this or that factual detail.

In such cultures, it is acceptable that a boss be told in public what the boss wants to hear, even if this includes a few inaccurate facts. This is not considered a lie, because it serves a higher perceived truth, i.e., maintaining the position and face of he who maintains harmony around whom all are rallied, willingly or less so.

This position of the leader is “more important” than a few uncomfortable facts, which can and will  be relayed, but discretely.

So the answer is no to “Do most people agree that most people believe that telling your boss what he wants to hear, and not the truth, constitutes a lie? Not a lie at all for some-rather the ultimate truth, harmony and a strong boss, can naturally be maintained by a few factual inaccuracies. Yes, for others, this is a bald lie, but not for all. A split jury.

OD and change-management types may find this type behaviour offensive. Indeed OD’s development  was rooted in anti-authoritianism.

However, OD ignores these cultural genetic codes to the detriment of our profession.

Neither OD, change management nor a strong corporate culture can re engineer such deep genetic cultural codes.

So in the following case, what will you tell Art? …..Art (US) asked Wang (China) “what does this quarter look like” on a concall with 6 participants.  Wang said “looks good”. After the concall, Wang called Art and told him that the quarter looked bad. Art told himself that Wang cannot be trusted as he is a pathological fibber.

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