Half truth and whole lie

Half truth and whole lie

It was a business sign at a parking lot in London: “We can’t change the world, but we can change your oil.” The business was booming and the ‘mission statement’ made people smile.

Mission statements of big companies often mean little. They tell you how great they want to become and how great they want to treat their customers. And then they go and treat their own employees with disrespect. Giant corporations and their accounting firms have gone bankrupt because they lied, omitted or manipulated the truth in spite of honourable mission statements. Their CEO’s are in jail for cheating.

The BP oil spill is a recent example of manipulating the truth. The company stated it had taken all safety precautions in the operation; the facts prove that between the two options they had for drilling, the company chose the more risky one.

There is a Yiddish proverb that says: a half truth is a whole lie. A half truth simply doesn’t exist. And thus omission is a lie. Hiding facts is lying. A ‘small lie’ is a lie. Empty phrases meant to cover up failures (‘for their good’ ‘we didn’t want to hurt them’) are also lies.

Truth is a scary word for many people. Politicians for instance are champions in juggling words and promises. It takes character, conviction and a lot of courage to be honest in politics. And it doesn’t automatically generate votes.

A businesswoman who publicly uncovers her life story including her failures, evokes surprise. Few would dare to follow her courageous example. Because, um, what about your image?

Well, image is only sustainable if based on truth. In the end authenticity is your best asset. Truth is also the basis of trust. And trust and faith are the fuel that keeps business going. An uncovered lie will brand you forever as an unreliable partner. Trust is easy to give, still easier to loose and very hard to win back. That is part of the drama BP is experiencing now. The company is threatened by a consumer’s boycott and the stock value has dropped over thirty percent in less than six weeks.

Can all stakeholders in your business trust you?

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