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Bursts of Color - Honesty 101

Bursts of Color - Honesty 101
By Geoff Donaker • Issue #29 • View online
Lately it feels like exaggeration is widespread. This has reminded me of The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, which I read years ago and skimmed again this week.
It’s a fascinating book and relevant for business leaders, so I recommend reading the real thing. In the meantime, here are a few of my (highly unscientific) take-aways for teams and marketplaces:

Most People Fudge, But Don’t Realize They Do
Given the opportunity to grade our own tests, peek at an answer key, calculate our own bonus or score our own golf game, most people “fudge” their answers a bit. More interestingly, we tend to be convinced that we scored ourselves correctly, and have little or no recollection that we exaggerated. These results were repeated consistently across age, country and other demographics.
Some Factors Increase Exaggeration
While most people fudge a bit, some conditions can cause group dishonesty to get out of control. For instance:
  • Irritation: fudging rates double when we’re annoyed.
  • Fatigue: tired people exaggerate more.
  • Disconnection from Money: we’re more likely to steal a pen than a dollar.
  • “In Group” Behavior: when we see friends take mulligans, we tend to do the same.
How We Can Increase Honesty
Leaders can increase team integrity by trying to avoid the negative conditions above. A few other things that help:
  • Monitoring: we don’t exaggerate when we’re being watched.
  • Moral Reminders: we’re more honest right after reviewing a school honor code or our company values.
  • No Temptation: When we don’t grade our own work, we don’t tweak the score. This is the most self-evident one… and also the most relevant for system design!
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Geoff Donaker

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