Gauging Honesty at Work

ByBob Rosner

April 26, 2006 — -- There is sure a lot of great sociology in dating, particularly in the ever-growing world of online dating. Amid the dull dates, intrigue and ships passing in the night, I've developed a theory that there are four types of people in online dating. Recently, I explained my theory to a woman, and she said that she thought it also applied to work.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought that she might be right, particularly with regard to honesty at work. Let's see if you agree. Here is a quick rundown of the four character types that you might see at work:

Group One: This is the smallest group. I call them the Whole Truth and Nothing Buts group. These people are scrupulously honest. I'm not sure they could lie even if they wanted to.

Group Two: This group is slightly larger than the first group but still makes up a relatively small slice of office life. These are the Pathological Liars. They lie even when it doesn't serve a purpose. One HR manager commented that the good part about pathological liars is that they lie so indiscriminately that you can usually catch them by just checking little details, like if the dates they worked at a certain job are accurate. Lucky for all of us, this group is relatively small.

Group Three: This group is much bigger than groups one and two combined. I was first introduced to this group when a woman who was six feet tall thought that was too tall to list in her online profile. So she put herself down at 5 feet 10 inches. Unfortunately, the great guy she found at 5 feet 10 inches was really only 5 feet 8 inches. Needless to say, they didn't exactly see eye to eye. I call this group the Rounding Errors. It's not really a lie, they just rounded things a bit. But the ramifications of rounding can have ripple effects -- the dating scenario offers a good example.

Group Four: Unfortunately, this seems to be the biggest group out there. To understand this group, I need to refer to one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes. It was one in which Jerry needed to pass a lie detector test. So he went to the best liar he knew, his friend George. George said, "Jerry, there is one thing you must remember. It's not a lie, if you believe it to be the truth." I call this group the Self-Deceivers.

Think about the people you've come across at work. Chances are that you'll find a lot of examples of the Whole Truth and Nothing But… Pathological Liars, Rounding Errors and Self-Deceivers. It's hoped this will help you to better navigate your workday and be a bit more charitable to groups three and four.

And it's important to understand that you might fit into one of these four groups, too. Yes, it's time for a bit of humble pie. Talk to friends and colleagues to see which of the four groups you fit into at work. Chances are good that you may be surprised at where they place you. As hard as this information is to hear, I'd much rather learn it myself from friends that I trust.

"Excellence and size are fundamentally incompatible." -- Robert Townsend, former President of Avis

"Leadership and the New Science" by Meg Wheatley (Berrett Koehler, 1999)

"This is a strange world, and it promises to only get stranger. Niels Bohr, who engaged with Heisenberg in those long, nighttime conversations that ended in despair, once said that great ideas, when they appear, seem muddled and strange. They are only half understood by their discoverer and remain a mystery to everyone else. But if an idea does not appear bizarre, he counseled, there is no hope for it. So we must live with the strange and the bizarre, directed to unseen lands by faint glimmers of hope. Every moment of this journey requires that we be comfortable with uncertainty and appreciative of chaos' role."

Here are the results from a recent Working Wounded Blog/ online ballot:

What is most dangerous about the mindset you bring to work?

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, an internationally syndicated columnist, popular speaker, and a recent addition to the community of bloggers. He welcomes your comments at

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

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