Corporate Rule: Don't Lie and Rarely Tell the Truth
Updated: Feb 28
Some old book somewhere said, "... You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." In office politics, the truth shall get you fired.
I'm not telling you to lie; just don't tell the truth. Here's the difference:
George Washington admitted he cut down the cherry tree when he was cornered by his father. He said:
"I cannot tell a lie, father, you know I cannot tell a lie! I did cut it with my little hatchet."
Did he tell the truth? Not exactly. But did he lie? No. The fact of the matter was that he cut down a lot of shit with his shiny new hatchet that day. Did he volunteer that information? No chance. Caught with one mistake, he could have panicked and lied by saying:
"I cut down the cherry tree, but I didn't cut anything else down with my new hatchet."
But he didn't say that. He very cleverly declared that he couldn't tell a lie and admitted to one irrefutable truth. If he had volunteered the whole truth, let me tell you, his ass would have been grass.
A lie condemns you; not telling the truth protects you.
Semantics is a beautiful thing and also allows you to avoid telling the truth. Take President Clinton for example. In his deposition he was asked if he had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. He very clearly said:
"I did not have sexual relations with that woman."
When it was later proven by the famous blue dress that Clinton did hook up with Monica, he stated that he believed the definition of sexual relations excluded oral sex. Good one, Bill. He was acquitted of perjury charge.
Nixon was nearly impeached, resigned in disgrace and never recovered from the mistake he made. Clinton was actually impeached, still didn't resign, and remains beloved by many to this day. He knew how to work it.
In business, there are people who fuck up constantly, and yet, they're still around thriving and getting promoted. That's because they know how to work the political system too.
Here are some lies revised to be true but not the whole truth:
We hit all our target dates in the project plan revised to We achieved all major milestones in the project plan (although it implies we hit our dates, we only delivered; we did not hit our dates).
The system was delivered on budget revised to The system was delivered on the approved budget ("approved" in this case means "revised" not "original")
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The system is bug free revised to There are no remaining critical system issues (although there are a ton of bugs).
I am not fucking around with my assistant revised to I did not have sexual relations with my assistant (even though she blew me behind closed doors on a conference call with Ernst & Young; it worked for Clinton, right?).
I did not expense a visit to a strip club revised to I did nothing inappropriate (if all else fails, this is a catch all).
Those are just a few ideas, but you get the point. There is no reason to tell the truth. But there is a reason to not tell the truth. If you want to get ahead in business, keep the truth between you and God.