I read a blog in Scientific American by Jeremy Adam Smith describing lies in different colors. You can read the article here.
Smith explains that psychologists tell us that children start to tell selfish black lies at about 3 years old. He hit me first. The dog ate my homework. At about age 7 they begin to tell white lies motivated by social awareness. That is a funny story. You look like you lost weight. “Blue lies are a different category altogether, simultaneously selfish and beneficial to others—but only to those who belong to your group. As University of Toronto psychologist Kang Lee explains, blue lies fall in between generous white lies and selfish “black” ones. You can tell a blue lie against another group, he says, which makes it simultaneously selfless and self-serving. For example, you can lie about your team’s cheating in a game, which is antisocial, but helps your team.”
Blue Lies can be a problem for businesses.
It is pretty easy for everyone in a business to see themselves as “Us” and everyone else as “Them”. This a natural outgrowth of creating a company culture based on common values and a shared vision. As long as we don’t start deluding ourselves with blue lies this is a good environment. It only gets toxic when we stop speaking the truth. When we start to tell ourselves that our product or service is better than our competitors even when it is not and the marketplace is telling us so through falling sales. When are sales teams start stretching the facts about what our product can do or what kind of services we are capable of providing. Blue lies can make us feel better about “us” by knocking “them” but they can create a group delusion about reality.
There are two safeguards against blue lies,- data and trust. One thing you can do is to keep a company scorecard with real data about activities which should produce future desired outcomes. If the data is telling you one thing and you continue to behave as if it is the other, blue lies may be clouding your judgement. Secondly, if you have created a culture of high trust where no one is penalized for speaking the truth, this is not likely to happen in your company. But if you have not, you may be at risk.
Photo credit: Miss.Killer!