Honesty is Sometimes Not the Best Policy

Updated: Nov 10, 2016

Hashtag: #FailingTheHonest

Honesty Is Sometimes Not the Best Policy

Moral Attitudes and Values Development in School

Most parents typically taught their children not to lie and be honest in everything they do as our society in general favors those who are truthful, sincere, and equitable. Similarly, educational institutions play a major role in ensuring that each student recognizes the worth and value of being honest in purpose, work, and principle. However, despite social norm and value learned in school, honestly in some society received punishment rather than admiration or respect.

The reason why schools typically avoid false systems of merits and demerits is the fact that such practice teaches children to work for end results rather study and learn. However, telling the truth in this world is not always the best policy particularly when it involves admitting your fault or exposing somebody in power. One reason is the fact that our perception of things offends those that are note aligned with them. Some people find it difficult to confront the truth as such complex reality demands emotional and intellectual integrity.

Many college students according to one study consider freedom, honesty, happiness, and competence as important personal values but they do not consider honestly as an obligation. These college students may be aware that such attitude sometimes frustrates other people. The study shows that some people actually gave up their honest behavior because of a bad experience. Punishing people for being honest makes them avoid such situation again through lies and deceit.


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The Effect of Dysfunctional Social Norms

Honesty builds trust and should be treated with respect but in many circumstances, a person’s honesty seems more of a disadvantage than a helpful characteristic. One problem is that traditional belief on the value of honesty is now overshadowed by alternative social norms that tolerate dishonesty.

According to study, some society rationalized dishonesty and other dysfunctional norms as unavoidable and even condone fraudulent and inefficient decisions made by social leaders and public authorities. In fact, this type of attitude prevails regardless of economic costs and serious consequences such as violations of public interests.

In business organizations according to research, an establishment of a norm of dishonesty among employees often make honest employees accept the norm and start viewing themselves as people who can also engage in theft and fraud. The organization's responses over this dysfunctional employee norm such as investing in high-tech security and surveillance systems seem to worsen the problem more. For instance, as costly security measures send the message that the company does not trust its employees, the sense of organization community is decreased. Moreover, it can also lead to employee hostility and retaliation as security system facilitates the belief that management is an enemy.

In school, students who regularly cheat and get away them makes cheating an acceptable behavior to their peers. In time, such academic dishonesty will become a dysfunctional but well-accepted social norm among students. Moreover, since people internalized norms and cheating does not stop after graduation, these students will likely continue doing other forms of dishonesty in later life such as cheating their spouse, lying to their workplace superiors, cheat customers, theft, fraud, and others. The saddest thing about it is the fact that habitual dishonesty often makes people view their misconduct as morally acceptable regardless of company financial losses and severe social consequences.

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