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Honesty is the best policy, is that so?

The word honesty denotes truthfulness, integrity – positive, admirable values. Should honesty always be a guiding principle in our lives?

A student, several years ago, in responding to the essay topic: Honesty is the best policy opined that honesty is not always the best policy. She illustrated her answer with the example of examinations.

According to her, a person will find herself/himself in situations when she/he has to cheat. If passing an examination well meant that a person would get into the best schools, and getting into the best schools would determine that person's successful future, (a belief in her culture) then it would be all right to cheat.

She did not examine the consequences that a person could likely face if caught. The potential benefit of cheating, to her, it would seem, far exceeded the costs.

The nature of the environments in which we work

We are working in environments in which governments and businesses have been trying to cement what is often referred to as a "managerialist" culture, one which supports the view that all (or most?) of the operations in organisations should be subject to some measurable criteria.

As such, many of us are working in organisations towards achieving set targets that we have been given or which we have set for ourselves, targets which are not only aimed at improving the bottom line of the organisations in which we work, but are also aimed at achieving accountability in these organisations. Accountability is one of the hallmarks of this culture.

In many societies, outside the "developed world"  a "business as usual" attitude has, for a long time, imbued every facet of life.

This "new" idea of managing that "the powers that be," especially in government agencies have been adopting, has been causing stress. That is, the idea of improving the efficiency, effectiveness, economy, responsiveness and the levels of accountability of everyone in organisations, among the other buzzwords that are associated with the new ideologies that are being espoused of managing organisations.

The adoption of these management ideologies by "the powers that be" in organisations has been causing much stress on everyone who works in these organisations.

Those who manage the change are also experiencing stress.

Those who are entrusted with conceptualizing, planning, implementing and operationalising the change are experiencing stress - everyone who works in these organisations is experiencing stress.

What is the real cause of this stress?

These are only some of the triggers of stress in this situation. You may add to this list.
  • The fear of being found out, that we lack the competence that we need to do the job that we have been called on to do, or the fear of losing the privileged niche that we have carved out for ourselves in the organisation. 
  • A rebellion against accountability. We do not want to take responsibility for our work/actions. We have got used to "passing the buck".
  • Anger at the loss of autonomy that we believe that we possessed before the change. We believe that we are not trusted. We believe that the "powers that  be" are treating us like children. We are, therefore, very angry. 
  • Distrust at the new direction that we are being  "forced" to take and/or distrust of the ability of our supervisors to objectively manage the change.
The response to this stress?

Since, in some organisations, failure to meet the targets that have been set, oftentimes, has dire consequences, some of us have been innovating. We have been willing to use any means necessary, orthodox or unorthodox, to get the job done.

But, there are consequences for every action as some of us have been finding out - the hard way.

To what extent do you take the adage, "honesty is the best policy" seriously?

My name is Janette Fuller. Welcome to my blog! You may learn about me here


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