As Honest As We Like to Think We Are

So . . . if no one knew when you lied, would you do it? Would you lie to save money? Would you lie to save your client money? Would the amount of money matter?

I have often taught negotiation ethics using Richard Shell’s division of people: the idealists, the pragmatists, and the poker-players. The poker-players assume that everyone who negotiates views it as a game: we all know that bluffing and puffing are part of the system -– caveat emptor. The pragmatists think that lying is generally unwise -– you’ll be found out, it’s not worth it, etc. The final school is the idealists -– lying is wrong and you shouldn’t do it.

It is wonderful when you can find a real-life example of idealistic telling-the-truth, and so I connect here to a lovely story about J.P. Hayes, a golf player. He played a nonconforming ball for a single hole of the second stage of the PGA Qualifying Tournament. He realized it more than a day after the “violation,” called it on himself, and disqualified himself from the tournament. This has, according to Yahoo, some severe career-altering effects down the line.

Now, the easy move here would be to either do nothing or blame the caddy. Hayes rose above both those temptations, putting all the blame on himself and asserting that everybody else on the PGA in his shoes would have done the exact same thing. We’ll never know, but let’s hope so.

Also, Hayes already has more than $7 million in career earnings, so it’s not like he’d consigned himself to another year working the counter at the Quik Stop. But still, knowing you’re taking yourself out of the running for a year of career stability and wealth takes some serious situational ethics.

But, as J.P. puts it, at least he can sleep at night. What would you have done?

Cross posted at Indisputably.

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