Thursday, February 27, 2014

Michael Josephson: Are cynics right? Is lying really necessary?

  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 are 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% of people over 40 are cynics compared to 47% of youngsters 17 and under and 35% of those 18-24 (19% of those 25-40 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% v. 8%), three times more likely to inflate an insurance (6% vs. 2%) or expense claim (13% v. 4%), or lie to a customer (22% vs. 7%). They are also one-and-a half-times more likely to cheat on their taxes (20% vs. 13%).

  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.

  About the author: Michael Josephson is one of the nation’s most sought-after and quoted ethicists. Founder and president of Josephson Institute and its CHARACTER COUNTS! project, he has conducted programs for more than 100,000 leaders in government, business, education, sports, law enforcement, journalism, law, and the military. Mr. Josephson is also an award-winning radio commentator.

  This article was published by the Josephson Institute.

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