Sunday, April 4, 2010

Michael Josephson: Character Counts: Is Lying necessary to success?

  What do you think? In today’s society, does a person have to lie or cheat at least occasionally to succeed?

  The question isn’t whether occasional liars and cheats sometimes get away with dishonesty; we all have to agree with this. The question is whether you believe people can succeed if they're not willing to lie or cheat.

  Those who believe lying and cheating have become necessities are cynics. A recent study of more than 10,000 people by the Josephson Institute of Ethics shows that the younger you are, the more likely you are to be cynical. This is important because cynics, regardless of their age, are far more likely to lie and cheat in both their personal and work lives.

  The correlation between cynicism and age is striking. Only 11 percent of people over 40 are cynics compared to 47 percent of youngsters 17 and under and 35 percent of those 18 to 24 (19 percent of those 25 to 40 are cynics).

  This turns out to be a big deal because cynicism is a powerful predictor of conduct. People who believe lying and cheating are a necessary part of success are nearly four times as likely to deceive their boss (31 percent v. 8 percent), three times more likely to inflate an insurance (6 percent vs. 2 percent) or expense claim (13 percent v. 4 percent), or lie to a customer (22 percent vs. 7 percent). They are also one-and-a half-times more likely to cheat on their taxes (20 percent vs. 13 percent).

  Cynicism is a toxic condition, but the antidote isn’t just hopeful optimism; it’s hard truth.

  Sometimes cheaters do prosper and sometimes it’s harder to succeed with integrity, but the latter is always possible.

  In fact, lots of honest people are highly successful. I’ll bet if you try you can name a few.

  This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

  About the author: Michael Josephson is the founder of the Josephson Institute, a non-for-profit organization which develops and delivers services and materials to increase ethical commitment, competence, and practice in all segments of society.

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