Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

A change-agent business owner from Kansas called me the other day to talk about a topic that an increased number of owners have thrown my way recently.  “Truth.”

I hear it all the time:

  • “Steve, my employees do not tell the truth to me.”
  • “If I told my employees the truth, they would be offended.” 
  • “To avoid a lawsuit, I have to be politically correct with my employees rather than be truthful with them.”
  • “If I gave them a truthful performance review, they would leave, and how does that really benefit me?” 
  • “Steve, truth is irrelevant nowadays, since everyone has their own ‘personal truth.’”
  • “I’m sort of truthful with my employees most of the time.”

Let’s wax philosophical for a moment.  If you don’t have truth, can you really have love, or respect, or honor, or friendship, or sincerity, or trust, or peace of mind?


Remember the timeless adage:  “A half truth is still a lie.” 

The Kansas business owner shared a recent example where her employees did not tell the truth.  In brief, due to a safety issue involving landscape equipment, several employees did not tell the truth (that’s called lying by the way) as part of the related investigation.  Rather than tell the truth, the employees chose to “play dumb” and simply let the investigation play itself out administratively.  

She knew they were lying.  They know they were lying.  I’m in San Diego and I know they were lying.  And you know what?  You know they were lying too, right?

Are you being truthful with me?

Now answer the question again.

When it comes to truth, never forget that you are a role model.  Do it, lead it, enable it, reinforce it.

During my conversation with the business owner, I suggested that “truth” become more of a foreground issue in her company.  My recommendations to her, also apply to you: 

  • make “truth” one of your company’s Core Values, 
  • when doing an investigation ask your employees “are you being completely truthful to me on this issue?”, 
  • insert the word “truth” into every contract proposal and enhancements bid,
  • ask your employees if they think you are always truthful with them,
  • stipulate in the Code of Conduct section of the Employee Handbook that employees always be truthful,
  • document truth at all times (e.g., interviews, performance reviews, walk-throughs, job quality, injuries, customer interactions, overtime).

Being realistic, we all know this process will be awkward, time-consuming, and revealing.  But until we begin this process, we are not being honest to our employees, our customers, our family members, or ourselves.

Isn’t that the truth?

Now answer the question again.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.