Are White Lies OK?

We were told Santa Claus existed. We were told the Easter Bunny existed. We were told our dog went to live on a ‘farm’ where he would be happier. And we believed them, unquestioningly, until we learned otherwise. We didn’t hold it against our parents for lying to us; we may have gotten upset, but we got over it. So a couple little white lies were told, big deal! Or is it?

In a recent conversation on LinkedIn, one participant posed a question, the gist of which could be construed as a little white lie. The issue at hand was that an applicant lied about their current employment status and it was only discovered after the offer letter was sent. Apparently even the references of the supposed current employer went along with the ruse to help her gain employment.

Little White Lie or major offense? According to the application, all information should be provided or it could result in rejection of application, termination, etc. The candidate clearly lied on her application. Do we need to consider the motivation behind it? Maybe. Do we need to have another conversation about it? Maybe. Do we need to sit her down and explain that because she lied, we now have a concern regarding trust, integrity and honesty? Maybe. Are we spending a lot of extra time on a candidate who misrepresented themselves? Definitely. Is it worth it? You tell me.

People say HR lies to employees all the time. How many times have we all heard, ‘No, there won’t be any more layoffs’, ‘It’s not a major issue, we’ll address it’, or ‘I’m sure this won’t be held against you’? When, in fact, just the opposite happens. But we continue to believe HR, because they are the ‘Human’ side to the company. If we can’t trust the Human side, who can we trust?

Should the same sort of forgiveness be extended to candidates? Depends on how you look at it. If you consider lying about current employment status to be a little white lie, you may forgive. If you consider it to be a major offense, you probably won’t.

Times are still tough, not just here in Detroit, but all over the country. Desperate times call for desperate measures, some say. If you have to compromise your integrity is it worth it? Won’t you forever be known as ‘the one who lied’? Is that the legacy you want to leave, even just through the interview process?

That’s up to you. It’s YOUR integrity in question. The truth will eventually come out. Where does that leave you then? Probably unemployed again, this time with a bit of a true blemish. Unless you decide to lie again…..

Wouldn’t it be easier, and more beneficial in the long run, to just be honest from the start? Tell me the truth and you’ll have an advocate for life. Lie to me and it’s over. Your choice.

2 thoughts on “Are White Lies OK?”

  1. To tell a child 'little white lies', such as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, so that they may be able to live in their fantasy world a little longer in child like innocence, to me, does no harm. However, to tell a 'little white lie' willingly to misrepresent yourself to obtain employment or anything else deceitfully is totally wrong! I don't care what the HR department does or doesn't do; I will not let an HR representative dictate to me what is morally right. I don't care if the position pays CEO wages, selling out your character just isn't worth it. After all when it comes time for us to depart this earthly life all the money and possessions you have/had remain here. But, your character you take with you to those pearly gates to answer for.

  2. Tom,

    You have an interesting perspective.
    As one who has many friends who are still unemployed, I offer a different point of view. I have heard countless times the following; The reason given to many applicants to various positions is that the "company" is only looking at candidate who are presently working.

    It isn't easy to put a price on one's integrity nor a price on losing one's house either.

    It's a tough call either way

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