Call me Pollyanna. I don’t think I am. I just read about the
law student, Brian Ascher, in
a $500 camera in a
cab and played Sherlock Holmes to find the owner. He felt compelled to locate
the real owner because the camera wasn’t his.
Eventually he did find the owner.
He had to do some pretty creative detective work to make it all happen.
The bottom line—he did the right thing. It got me thinking about how honesty is
demonstrated in business and if it’s really the best policy.
Contrast this honest Abe with a nationally recognized time
management expert whose recommendation really bothered me. This expert has a home office and doesn’t
want to be distracted with the unannounced visits of neighbors during the business
day. This is the advice that the time
management expert gives to corporations with home-office based employees so
they can be more productive. The advice is to do what the expert does when the
neighbors come around. The expert goes
to the door with a cordless phone, opens the door and pretends to be on the
phone. Then the expert mouths to the
neighbor, “I’ll call you later” still pretending to be talking with someone.
The time management expert does call back in the evening when the timing is
better. That talking on the phone
charade sounded so dishonest and false to me.
What’s wrong with not answering the door (which seems like the door
equivalent of letting your phone calls go to voicemail)? What about simply saying, “Hi. I’m in the
middle of a project. Can I call you back tonight?” What are your thoughts on that charade versus
I guess why I found it so false is that the charade goes
beyond doing nothing. Doing nothing
would have been simply not to answer the door.
That would be like not saying something to someone who has food stuck in
their teeth. I know it’s hard for some
people to tell others if they have broccoli stuck to their teeth. I simply say, “I’m sure you would want to
know. I know I would. You have some food
stuck in your teeth.” In all my years of
speaking up, I’ve never had anyone say, “I wish you hadn’t told me.”
So blog readers, tell me.
Is this an example of degrees of honesty? Are some degrees of honesty acceptable in
business? Am I overreacting to someone lying to someone? Is it lying? I still come back to the place where honesty
is the best policy. Am I Pollyanna? What do you think?