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.
“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-authoritarianism. 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, is Wang lying? Art (US) asked his direct report Wang (China) “what does this quarter look like” in a con-call with 6 participants. Wang said “looks good”. After the con-call, Wang called Art and told him that the quarter looked bad.
Wang has maintained the ultimate truth; he has avoided making his boss look bad. He did this by lying.