I’ve always believed it pays to be honest. Even when it’s scary.
I was working at my first full-time job at a bank doing data entry, and my coworker made a mistake that got sent to the COO of the bank.
My coworker, and friend, inputted some incorrect information into our system for a high net worth client, and that delayed the opening of their account. The person who managed the relationship with that client was much more senior to us and wanted that account opened “ASAP.” What usually took two to three days, they wanted in less than a day. When they heard about that mistake, they sent an email out about it to my friend’s manager and other senior people. And the email got forwarded and dropped into our COO’s inbox. My friend found out about it and he dropped a load on his pants.
There was an office happy hour that was planned for that day and I asked my friend if he wanted to join. He didn’t. He probably wanted to go home to change his pants.
After I left work, I found myself in a bar in Midtown Manhattan. It was crowded with revelers, and I pushed my way through and found people I knew. There were also others with us I didn’t recognize. Someone introduced me to the person who sent the email about my friend that was forwarded on to the COO. Happy hour got a touch less happy.
She was small in stature but big in personality. I told her that I was friends with the person that she sent that email about. She then said something that surprised me, “I’m such a b***h…” and repeated it over and over. Then she asked me something even more surprising, “Do you think I’m a…?”
Before I could stop myself, “Kinda,” slipped out of my mouth. She nodded, and we laughed and kept on talking.
The oddest thing happened, we became friends. And because of her, I got one of the biggest promotions at the bank and had the privilege of working with her and her boss.
The truth is powerful. It was powerful enough to alter the course of my life. I believe that if I didn’t get that promotion, my life would look very different than it does now. I don’t even know if I would have ever become an entrepreneur. Sure, there are stories where telling the truth backfires, but I’ve found that more often than not people respect the act of truth-telling.
We tell ourselves that we can’t be honest with other people because we don’t want to hurt other people. We want to protect their feelings, reputation, etc. And that may be true.
But I think that many of us do it more out of protecting ourselves. We don’t want to upset anyone because it may hurt our career, cause someone to hate us, damage our reputation.
Telling the truth is a risk. I was fired from my first real job because I called my boss a “control freak.” Getting fired at that moment was terrible but it ended up being the best thing for me. I was pushed into a career path that was a better fit for me.
Lying doesn’t work. It erodes, even destroys integrity. I never wanted to be someone that lacked integrity. Now, I’m not saying that you should have no discretion, going around just spouting off the blunt truth to every person around you. Also, I’m not saying that I’ve never lied. I have. But, I work very hard against it. I fight the fear that I have to protect myself, the urge to control so that I can be a person with a richer character. It’s a moment by moment battle.
When I said “kinda,” to the person whose email ended up with the COO, even though I’m sure my words hurt her to a certain degree, she knew that I wouldn’t likely lie to her because I put myself at risk to be honest with her. That caused her to trust me more than hate me. And I think it’s more of a testament to the kind of person she is. She’s a truth seeker.
A couple of weeks after the happy hour, we grabbed lunch and she told me that she was getting promoted. And I told her that I would love to work with her. She said that she would try to get me an interview. A couple of weeks later, I got one. A couple of weeks after that, I had a shiny new job working with her. I was lifted out of my operations job into managing relationships with our high net worth clients. I had no business being in that position.
But for me, telling the truth paid.