What’s your litmus test for people: Honesty or skill?

When do you fold ‘em, walk away or run?

Tell a lie once and all your truths become questionable.

Once upon a time I worked for a charismatic leader with a serious set of skills. Someone I learned from constantly and deeply admired …

  • Until I caught him in a lie.
  • And then a second one.
  • A third one.
  • A fourth one.
  • And finally a fifth one.

The crazy part was – I wasn’t hunting for lies. I literally kept tripping into them – all five in a very short amount of time after years of working together.

When I confronted for the last time. He said, “I don’t know how you keep finding these things out.” No denial. No excuses. No apology.

A short time later – I “fired him” by turning in my notice.

Titled leaders and employees can all be tempted to overlook honesty because of skill.

As a titled leader:

Have you ever hired someone – after it became clear that they lied in their interview?

  • A seemingly tiny lie – like where they lived
  • A bigger lie – like how long they’d held a job
  • A bold lie – like having more education or experience than they do

How did that decision impact:

  • Your business?
  • Your customers?
  • Your employees?
  • You?

Would you do it again?

One really bad hire: Has created distrust, destroyed teams, chased customers away, killed profits – and eventually brought down the hiring managers that overlooked those lies.

Have you ever discovered that someone lied to you on their resume or application after you hired them?

  • Do they still work for you?

Have you ever found out that someone falsified a report at work?

  • What did you do?
  • What message did you send to your other employees about the importance of integrity?

I’ve heard hiring managers justify skills over character, sales managers defend profit over truth and HR managers declare that they don’t legislate morality.

On the flip side of that, is the stand that Financial Guru Dave Ramsey has taken with his employees. If any of them cheat on their spouse they are terminated. He believes if someone will cheat on the person that is supposed to be the most important person in their lives – they will cheat on anything.  And that lack of character will ultimately impact other employees, the workplace and his customers.

As a prospective employee:

Have you ever overlooked the character of the company because you had too much invested already?

  • Have you ever discovered that the company that you just accepted a position with – is lying to you?
  • What did you do?

This post describes a situation one of my expat neighbors faced two days prior to moving to Saudi Arabia.

As an employee:

Have you ever learned alarming things about the character of the company you just started working for?

  • What did you do?

Have you ever allowed your character to be manipulated by a bully?

  • Has your hiring manager ever demanded that you do something – and won’t put that demand in writing?
  • Did you stand up to them – in spite of their anger?

People have lost everything from vacations to their jobs because they didn’t stand.  Choosing to stand may also result in no job, but it doesn’t violate your conscience or tarnish your character.

Looking for a speaker or a facilitator for your next event?  

Chery helps people and organizations accomplish their mission by facilitating truth-seeking, listening, dialogue, collaboration and growth:

  1. People work through divisive issues
  2. Students and professionals develop critical life and leadership skills
  3. Followers of Jesus find Biblical responses to the news and division in our world

Chery, Today was a hit! You were a delight and commanded the attention of all. We’ll be a better company. The feedback has been fantastic! Thank you for sharing your time with us.

Teresa Knox, Founder and Former CEO – Community Care College, Clary Sage College, OK Technical College

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Chery Gegelman

President, Giana Consulting

Chery Gegelman is an adventurer that loves to learn. ...Deep conversations, books, travel, and daily living are all food for growth.

As a speaker, facilitator and workshop leader she creates energizing environments that reflect God's grace, tear down walls, help people to consider new perspectives, and inspire change.

Chery is the Founder of Giana Consulting and Conversation Safari's, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two leadership books.

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4 thoughts on “What’s your litmus test for people: Honesty or skill?

  1. Excellent post Chery!

    Lying is so difficult because we want to see the best in others so we make excuses for the small lies. I once worked with someone whose lies kept growing and growing. It got to the point that I stopped believing in everything she said or did. There ended up being no trust left.

    Thanks Chery!

    • Agreed Terri – We want to see the best in others!

      If we love them or had really trusted them – it is easy to make excuses for lying. Or to avoid smelling the smoke or following it to it’s source.

      If we admire or need their skills it can be easy to dismiss their behavior and focus instead on the immediate results instead the future impact.

      And if we have too much invested we can hate what is happening and feel like we have no choice but to accept the behavior.

  2. When I discovered that a company I took a risk with looked much different on the outside than the inside… I left. Truth is, not only were they a poor match for me (and my integrity) but I was a poor match for them. We waved goodbye rather quickly. When we feel that lump in our throats and pit in our stomach growing, ignoring it never makes it go away.

    Thanks, Chery!


  3. I agree with Dave Ramsey on this one. Cheating is cheating, and it’s wrong.

    I’m just as harsh about lying. Making mistakes is easy. I do it every day. But lying about them reveals a character flaw I’d rather not have to deal with.

    If your skills are limited, but I know you’re going to use them to the best of your ability and be honest about them, we can always work with that.