COMMENTARY 864.5: How Much Do You Want It to Be?

by Michael Josephson on January 30, 2014

in Commentaries, The Nature of Character

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The founder of a company needed to choose his successor. He studied resumes and talked to references, but he decided to ask only one question during the final interview: “How much is 2 + 2?”

Ann, the first candidate, worried that there was a trick but she answered straightforwardly. “There’s only one correct answer: it’s four.”

Terry, who had an engineering background, was more creative. “Depending on whether you’re dealing with positive or negative numbers,” he said, “the answer could be plus four, zero or minus four.”

Chuck, the last candidate, looked the questioner in the eye and whispered, “How much do you want it to be?”

While Ann and Terry took different approaches, they were both looking for an honest answer. Chuck, on the other hand, wanted the questioner to know that he was willing to say or do whatever it takes to succeed. Some employers may find this combination of creativity and moral flexibility highly attractive. I’d show him the door.

You see, Chuck is a manipulator and rationalizer, and they don’t make good employees. They search for excuses rather than solutions, and they are more concerned with looking good than doing it right.

People like Chuck, who are adept at inventing justifications that sound good but aren’t true, are simply clever liars and, eventually, they will be found out. Remember, an employee that will lie for you will lie to you.

Without conscience there is no credibility, without credibility there is no trust, and without trust there is no future.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Belk @ethical behavior January 14, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Michael I had to listen to your podcast 3 times because I thought you were saying rational people are wrong, but you were referring to people who try to make the answer fit.

I got it now and I believe you are right. I worked around inmates for a long time and I witnessed many people try to manipulate the situation. We do not care for politicians who feed us bologna as the truth.

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Patrick A Toffler January 15, 2013 at 3:03 am

Michael, we are always looking for a “right” answer. In practice, we have to state the criteria for what makes an answer (decision, action) right. Operationally, a right answer must be efficient (it is not wasteful), effective (it has a reasonable chance of working), ethical (it is consistent with our values). This is easy to understand. That does not make it easy to achieve. However, it is right. Respectfully, Pat

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