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How Big is a Lie?

Posted April 21, 2010 7:50 AM

We've all heard about engineers who suppress adverse test results, hide known product flaws or pursue dead-end research projects to protect their jobs. What the boss doesn't know won't hurt him/her. Or will it? Integrity represents an important asset in any engineering environment. How often do you bend the truth to improve the perception of a presentation or report? What if your subterfuge is discovered? If you find out that a colleague, subordinate, or manager has dealt less than honestly in a critical — or not-so-critical — situation, do you confront the person? Take it up with management? Let it slide by?

The preceding article is a "sneak peek" from Test & Measurement, a newsletter from GlobalSpec. To stay up-to-date and informed on industry trends, products, and technologies, subscribe to Test & Measurement today.

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#1

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/21/2010 8:13 AM

I've got in trouble telling the truth, but far less trouble than if I'd told lies.
I just can't say see any point in telling lies.
"I'll say what ever you like but it won't change the facts" is the sort of comment which is sure to upset those middle managers.
I once offered to change the units on a time scale from months to weeks on the same principal...baaaad kitty.

My definition of expert (and I don't like the term) is 'the man who can put right his own mistakes'.
Of course the first step is acknowledging them...(maybe some advice for politicians there?)
Del

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#2

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/21/2010 9:45 AM

I agree with Del, you tell the truth (to customers or internal) no matter how hard or heat you take, its a matter of integrity. which I always felt engineers had, but I see is eroding

I knew of an engineer that all he wanted to do was to keep his network strong (all customers) at the employers expense, he did this at (2) companies that I know of.

He did have a following of clients, and the engineer left a trail of companies distressed of unprofitable equipment. Of course he will have a following. but it is catching up to him, and will not be too long that his network better be offering him a job, because he is becoming known to be toxic to an OEM.

If you find out that a colleague, subordinate, or manager has dealt less than honestly in a critical — or not-so-critical — situation, do you confront the person? Take it up with management?

'It all depends on the seriousness, If the project can absorb it with no negative effects than mildly comment on it and all learn from it, If the Engineer is consistently.

It all depends on the effect whether it has, is it worth the effort to correct it, or if it just a incident that it only appears to be a lie, from the engineer but is not and is just how things unfold.

Then it should be escalate by different approaches, by the degree of infraction. And serious enough very direct to the engineer or to management. Remember if he's is ingrained in the company, you will be out on the streets by the time the company finds out the problem is really him.

Remember, this engineer will continue to cover his tracks and manipulate to pin everything detrimental onto what threatens him/her.

p911

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Anonymous Poster
#3

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/22/2010 12:17 AM

As a test engineer, I have worked in various industries for a while now. I found that when it comes to unhappy () results I have to deal with a lot of questions from design engineer to management. It sometime took a lot of effort to prove the results are correct and they need to improve they design or method. I would rather stick with my test result than change it to happy() result because at the end of the day if anything happens it is my responsibilities and I may go to jail if I am working in automotive industry or white goods industry and somebody die because I want to make someone happy

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#4

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/22/2010 1:03 AM

Knowingly misrepresenting the truth should never be an option. However, confronting the offender, assuming the offender is KNOWINGLY misrepresenting the truth, is going to create serious difficulties for you- the more serious the infraction, the more serious the difficulties. It is assumed that the offender has some agenda which necessitates the misrepresentation (i.e., we are not dealing with a pathological liar who lies just to see if it can be passed for the truth). One should fully understand the motivating agenda before taking any action. It could well be that the offender transgresses the ethical boundaries with the support and approval of members of the management staff, in which case the appropriate response is to dust off your resume and head for the door. If the infraction is one of the "CYA" sort of reactions to cover up poor performance, or to lay claim to credit not due, then the appropriate action is to document as best you can your perception of the truth of the situation as it conflicts with the perspective presented by the offender. However, unless the infraction is of a nature such that there will be a significant negative impact to the organization, it is best to let the offender trip himself up. The most practical reason for always telling the truth is you don't have to remember the lies you have told, and who you have told them to. Habitual liars always trip themselves up because they continue to invent new stories to disguise the discrepancies in the first lie.

One should also be aware that what appears as an untruth to you may be the result of a misunderstanding of the issues, or a misinterpretation of the evidence, rather than a pathological attempt to misrepresent the truth. In this case, the best solution may be to have an informal discussion with the offender over the differences in perspective. There is always the possibility that what you perceive as the truth may be in error.

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#7
In reply to #4

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/22/2010 1:10 PM

Well written.

I am currently wrestling with this very problem where it appears a VP of a volunteer organisation has falsified documents. As treasurer I have before and after documents and financial records backing it up.

Unfortunately the board is split into 2 camps, so no matter what it is a lose lose situation.

If it is publicized the VP has falsified the documents there will a huge fallout, and I am sure the immediate reaction will be defamation and libel law suites.

What cost the truth?

Time to dust off the resume and head out the door to separate one's self from the situation?

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/22/2010 2:10 PM

The board is aware of the situation, but split in two camps? This is a political situation, and, you, being treasurer, are low-hanging fruit that can be "sacrificed" should there be a need to demonstrate to whomever that corrective measures have been taken. Make very, very sure that there is no possible way the falsification can be pinned on you (perhaps you may need to seek legal counsel on this issue), because, if you leave the scene, there most definitely will be an attempt to find a scapegoat, and you could be an easy target.

Do not "go public" with the information you have, because, as you have indicated, there is enough doubt in some minds where the truth may lie. The split board also suggests that this particular incident may be only the tip of the iceberg- perhaps the original falsification was accomplished to protect others, or to disguise activities inconsistent with the mission of the volunteer group. I assume the board is aware of the evidence in your possession. If they do not act on the evidence, and do not provide a legitimate reason for not acting, most definitely, it is time to move on.

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#11
In reply to #8

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/22/2010 2:28 PM

Board has 10 members,

The VP and possibly another board member that perpetrated the falsification know.

Then we have three of us that know they were falsified from our discoveries, and don't know how to blow the whistle. One board member sits on the fence. Most of the other board members are long time friends of the VP. Three vs six one undecided. Poor odds.

Yes, it is a dissfunctional board.

(And my ulcer is acting up!)

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#14
In reply to #11

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/24/2010 11:56 AM

Hi, GW.

Here in Canada, our provinces (the equivalent of US States) regulate volunteer organizations (community clubs, etc.). Whether or not your group receives government aid, it's almost certainly regulated by some government unless your group is just an informal one. That being said, since it has a board and issues documents, it's almost certainly regulated.

The thing to do is to go to the regulatory agency (or whatever) and blow the whistle, period. You'll know which one to go to by finding out to whom annual reports are sent to, with whom your group is registered, etc. If you don't have that information, start at the State/province level by calling an info line, look under 'volunteer organization (State/province name)', or just call a a legal agency (in the US, say a District Attorney' office).

You MUST do this, else you're complicit and liable. CYA won't save you from shame and opprobrium ... at best, you'll come across as a weenie who didn't do his fiduciary duty.

Courage, my friend! Doing right feels intimidating at first, but once you do it you'll find that there's nothing like it to build your self-esteem; and it actually becomes a habit and a way of life/thinking. I myself have made two citizen's arrests (with friends), called the cops on people 2-3 times, and called 911 a couple dozen times. In the first two cases, 99%+ of people wouldn't get involved, and in the latter maybe 5% of people with cellphones did.

Time to step up and join the ranks of People Who Care and Act Accordingly. Courage to you, and good luck; and do let us know how things work out.

Cheers! DZ

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#16
In reply to #14

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/25/2010 1:08 PM

Here in British Columbia I was sure there would be a regulatory body for a non-profit.

For the last ten years I have also been the president of an environmental group that is a registered charity. As a charitable organization things are pretty transparent, books are open, government reports for tax returns are filed, Direct Access Gaming funds are tightly controlled and audited. (Direct access gaming funds are another way of saying pork barrel. They are a political hot potato.)

The other organization although a non-profit falls into a category of "non-reporting" with assets less than $200k. The only report they file is the annual list of directors. Victoria (provincial) doesn't care (they just register the organization), and unless taxes are owing, CRA doesn't care.

If you are going to go the route of the RCMP you better have a crime big enough and tight enough and generally involving the public to make it a slam dunk. Otherwise you will find law suites brought against you to keep you busy for the rest of your life. (The RCMP I have found won't even act on a forged cheque from a known convicted felon, they shrug their shoulders and add it to the file!)

I have discovered corruption is hard to fight. You know it stinks, there are a multitude of "small" sins, but in general no one item is big enough to get corrective action.

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/22/2010 2:17 PM

What cost the truth?

Your job,

Your health,

Your reputation though may only be temporary,

Your financial security,

Your unprovoked solitude, Not always, sometimes you get sympathy like "That poor so of a ######"

Keep in mind, what your integrity is worth to you, one wrong decision and that is also wiped away no matter how many years it took to build.

And if the heat is too hot for you, get out of the kitchen that still is your choice and you realize that by your comment;

Time to dust off the resume and head out the door to separate one's self from the situation?

I watched the senate hearings about Lehman brothers the other day, one of the accountants doing his best to warn about the irregularities and making a warning in a letter, he was promptly left go (promptly in his 5 minute response), then. and the CEO was questioned on why Lehman failed, in his 5 minutes he had to respond, he gave a Lehman's prestigious history lecture, and then ran out of time. Oh yeah he didn't have time to respond to the question.

p911

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#10
In reply to #7

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/22/2010 2:19 PM

As treasurer, you doubtless have statutory responsibilites.
Fullfill those, no more, no less.
Then get the heck out of there before you are dragged down.
Good luck
Del

(And keep copies to cover yo' ass)

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#5

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/22/2010 2:07 AM

"Sorry, honey, but your sister smells".

Would YOU say it? No? Welcome to the world of beneficial untruths (which don't have to be lies, by the way).

Or how about "Good day, Mr. ABC. I think you're a big pr*ck, but this contract is important to many people and will benefit greatly the community". Wouldn't say that either? Say hello to useful and APPROPRIATE non-telling of the truth.

Everything's contextual, fellas. ("NIXON shot KENNEDY and he's got the nuclear codes! Nixon does, I mean ..").

Cheers! DZ

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#6

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/22/2010 8:31 AM

All of the above illustrates why engineers & technical people don't make good diplomats & politicians (and vice versa).

Logan

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#12

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/24/2010 1:47 AM

There is no Big or Small lie. A Lie is a Lie.

If a somebody lies about a thing in a working environmnet, then he is tyring to protect himself or the Company he is working for. In modern days to cope up with the increaed competition people tend to project incorrect results or hide some of their engineering flaws.

If a colleague is found to have delt in an unfair way for a CRITICAL situation, then definitely he/she has to be taken up to the upper managenent. On other hand if it was a NON-CRITICAL situation then I think he/she should be given a second & last chance.

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/24/2010 7:16 AM

so if you had a problem and you do not know how you are going to solve it, but you know you can, and you tell the cutomer, I can do it, so at least he can sleep at night.

If thats a lie, so be it.

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#18
In reply to #13

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/26/2010 8:40 AM

Where is the lie here Phoenix? When you know you can do it, you are telling the same to the customer!

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/26/2010 9:37 AM

It is how the hell am I going to do this, I don't know, but I know I can, or think I can.

Its telling the customer or internal of the company with confidence, which can go a long way. I do not do this very much any more because of the stress it puts on me.

The first time, I done this, I did not have the skills set. but working till past 10:00 pm reading, programming, trial and error. I gained the skills set. I did not want to make a liar out of myself. Inexperience at the time.

Only once was where I could not correct the issues, but the only reason was, I basically took over a project were the records were falsified at the very beginning.

At all the times I said this, I had a very loose plan, but try telling that to an arrogant close minded colleague or (someone that had created the problem) pessimist.

And I do not use the term "Just trust me", too many liars use that.

What I see, the secret to solving an issue is to begin to address it, the more you work with it, the more it points you to the solution. And when questioned initially that is my response alonmg with any other loosly put together idea. Bottom line, your have to start to address it.

p911

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#15

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/24/2010 7:49 PM

...while the TRUTH might free you, a LIE will certainly jail you.

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#17
In reply to #15

Re: How Big is a Lie?

04/26/2010 8:33 AM

That's incontrovertible.Experience has shown this to be true.

I my country, an MD of a blue chip company was fired because it was discovered that the company's year end results were falsified. Some banks have go down just after declaring end of year profits. These are all results of lies.

Personally, if I'm confronted with exposing a lie, I will but will not do it with malice.

cheers,

ethobil

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#20
In reply to #17

Re: How Big is a Lie?

05/18/2010 5:02 AM

Sorry, this should read;

That's incontrovertible. Experience has shown this to be true.

In my country, an MD of a blue chip company was fired because it was discovered that the company's year end results were falsified. Some banks have gone down just after declaring end of year profits. These are all results of lies.

Personally, if I'm confronted with exposing a lie, I will but will not do it with malice.

cheers,

ethobil

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