That’s a sticky question, especially in 2022 business environments marked by mounting economic uncertainties, talent issues, and struggling post-pandemic supply chains. So, is the answer Never? Sometimes? It depends?
“There’s a universe of ambiguity between outright fraud and the whole truth,” says John Paul Rollert in an article published in 2020. It’s ambiguous because while few business executives are willing to dismiss a commitment to the truth outright, “for most people today, an affirmative fidelity to the truth seems a better fit for Boy Scouts than business executives.”
Rollert cites the work of the economist Albert Z. Carr in the 1960s. Carr said: “Most executives from time to time are almost compelled, in the interests of their companies or themselves, to practice some form of deception when negotiating with customers, dealers, labor unions, government officials, or even other departments of their companies. By conscious misstatements, concealment of pertinent facts, or exaggeration—in short, by bluffing—they seek to persuade others to agree with them. I think it is fair to say that if the individual executive refuses to bluff from time to time—if he feels obligated to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—he is ignoring opportunities permitted under the rules and is at a heavy disadvantage in his business dealings.”
What Carr says is unfortunate but true and perhaps one reason why transparency has become such a prevalent buzzword in business negotiation. It’s also a conundrum because if both sides are bluffing in a negotiation where does that leave truth, the deal, and integrity?