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Ethics & Sustainability

The Truth About Lies in the Workplace
By Carol Kinsey Goman
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2013
155 pages
List price: $16.95
ISBN: 978-1-60994-837-5

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We all lie at work. But most of those lies are benign—mere "petty crimes," like saying, "It's no trouble to produce that report overnight." What concerns author Carol Kinsey Goman is the kind of workplace lying that causes real damage, both to individuals and to companies.

In The Truth About Lies in the Workplace, Goman examines why people lie at work, types of lies and liars, and the business and personal consequences of lying. She looks at how we play into liars' hands and advises on how to spot lies and deal with liars even when the liar is the boss.

Lies and liars appear at all levels of an organization. Senior leaders may withhold information or use spin to prettify unpleasant truths. Line managers may lie by avoiding responsibility, taking credit for others' achievements, failing to keep promises and trying to appear as if they can handle everything when they can't. Co-workers sometimes mislead, withhold information or even act unethically.

Goman notes that more than half of employees admit to lying, usually to cover up job performance issues, to control their time (such as lying to get out of a meeting) or to protect their careers.

Goman explains how to spot lies and handle liars at work and encourages readers to:

  • Learn to identify stress and anxiety in others. You can't always tell if someone is lying, but you can learn to tell if someone is stressed. Goman teaches ways to interpret nonverbal cues—body language—as well as verbal cues that can give away deceptions.
  • Identify the biases that make us likelier to believe what someone says. Biases include gender bias, a tendency to expect honesty and a belief that others are likely to act as we would act in a given situation, among others. Goman outlines what makes liars successful, from flattering us to doing favors for us.
  • Remember that not all workplace lies merit attention. Some lies make the workplace easier to deal with, such as the co-worker who asks how your project is going but only out of politeness. The book offers specific questions to ask yourself if you detect a lie, such as its possible impact and the possible consequences of your responses.
  • Think through strategies for how to proceed. Do you plan a direct confrontation or an indirect approach? Goman provides steps for each. Do you need to report the liar officially; if so, what are the procedures? If the liar reports to you, what are your options?
  • Consider whether you look like a liar to others. Goman advises on how to project "confidence, competence and credibility" that demonstrate your trustworthiness.
  • Reduce lies in the workplace. Leaders can create a plan to strengthen openness and honesty in the office. That plan includes understanding the organization's culture, encouraging constructive conflict and creating an atmosphere of trust where people learn from failure rather than being punished for it.

Talent, Transformation, and the Triple Bottom LineTalent, Transformation, and the Triple Bottom Line
By Andrew Savitz with Karl Weber
Jossey-Bass, 2013
List price: $37.95
389 pages
ISBN: 978-1-118-14097-0

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Sustainability is about how businesses can “turn environmental and social challenges … into business opportunities,” and it’s a hot topic. Increasingly, companies are hiring sustainability specialists and setting up sustainability departments. What is missing is a key role for a department that is crucial for real transformation—the HR department. In Talent, Transformation, and the Triple Bottom Line, Andrew Savitz and Karl Weber provide examples, ideas and plans HR professionals can use to make sustainability a reality. They also answer questions such as the following:

  • What is sustainability? Learn the current business meanings of sustainability and its environmental, social and economic aspects. The authors’ “triple bottom line” measures a company’s environmental and social impact as well as its economic performance. The book defines what sustainability means for business, outlines trends in sustainability and recommends ways to develop sustainable business strategies.
  • How does an organization make sustainability part of its workforce life cycle? If sustainability is viewed as a separate, feel-good activity—just a way to boost corporate image—then the workforce won’t take it seriously. Linking sustainability strategy to employee behavior is critical if environmental and social aspects are to become ingrained in workers’ daily actions. Sustainability can be part of all aspects of workforce management, including recruitment, diversity, career development, training, and compensation and incentives. Readers get advice on creating incentives that reward employees for helping meet corporate sustainability goals.
  • What role does workforce management play in bolstering sustainability? HR’s position as keeper of performance management processes and other workforce management processes gives it a strong strategic part to play. The book describes how performance appraisals can link employee goals to larger sustainability goals and how appraisals can evaluate and reward employees based on sustainability performance. Readers also learn about what today’s workforce expects from corporate sustainability and how some organizations have created career paths focused on sustainability.
  • How does sustainability affect HR areas such as health programs, labor relations, diversity, employee engagement and more? The book examines how sustainability expands HR’s responsibilities; looks at tools and techniques now available to help HR approach its traditional goals with sustainability in mind; and shows how wellness programs, working conditions (such as flexible work arrangements) and workspace fit into sustainability.
  • What is HR’s role in the larger picture of building a sustainable company? HR can learn lessons from other companies’ experiences in changing corporate culture and in changing employees’ beliefs. A section on “how to get where you want to go” uses examples to show how HR can take specific actions to make sustainability a real, concrete part of the organization.

Moral Intelligence 2.0Moral Intelligence 2.0
By Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel
Prentice Hall, 2011
296 pages
List price: $25.99
ISBN: 978-0-13-249828-9

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A prominent telecommunications firm. A software provider. A utility company. A cable television provider. What did these firms all have in common?

Each of them saw leaders retired, gone or charged after a variety of problems such as inflated stock prices, overstated earnings, accounting problems and conspiracy. Firms don’t have to be troubled financial giants like Bear Stearns or Goldman Sachs to have serious issues with morality at their core, according to authors Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel.

In Moral Intelligence 2.0, Lennick and Kiel urge company leaders to learn from others’ mistakes and build greater “moral intelligence” in firms, strengthening four elements—integrity, responsibility, compassion and forgiveness—as a bulwark against the kind of problems that devastated these businesses.

The book covers three areas:

  • What is moral intelligence?
  • How can people develop moral skills and use them in business to make decisions?
  • What does moral leadership look like, and how can company leaders strengthen and demonstrate moral skills?

The authors cover how people develop an individual moral sense and how varied cultures tend to come to the same basic conclusions about what is moral and right. They look at how the brain chooses between competing drives to behave in different ways and how humans, they say, “are biologically wired to be moral.”

A chapter on the idea of an individual moral compass guides readers in examining their personal values, life goals and the behaviors that make values, beliefs and goals daily realities.

The section on developing moral skills uses examples from interviews with business leaders, who talk about the real-world application of Lennick and Kiel’s principles for moral leadership—responsibility, integrity, compassion and forgiveness. Readers get examples of how businesspeople have honored confidences, admitted mistakes and failures, and let the past go.

The book helps readers learn techniques for making moral decisions. Exercises teach how to recognize a situation’s problems, reflect on how to interpret the situation, reframe the problem, and respond with a decision that is consistent with moral values and goals. Self-awareness and recognition of one’s own biases can be learned, and leaders particularly need this awareness, the authors say. A section on “the moral leader” advises top managers about how to use the spotlight and the power they already possess to take true moral leadership of their companies. Leaders of large organizations get special attention and advice, as do entrepreneurs in small organizations.