She got fired over the phone, and sent an email blast to the organization announcing what had happened. The New York Times story on former CEO Carol Bartz abrupt dismissal from Yahoo said she did something that executives rarely do in that situation. “She told the truth.”

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We’ve been grappling with the fact that truth-telling is often seen as a radical act in our organizations and trying to figure out why that should be so. In our last post, we listed compelling and seductive reasons for NOT telling the truth. This week, we are listing benefits that come from telling the truth.

Top 20 Reasons for Telling the Truth

1.     It forces me to be honest with myself
2.     Establishes credibility and trust
3.     It shows people what I see and how I truly feel
4.     I don’t have to remember what stories/lies I told before
5.     Helps me confront harsh realities rather than fear or ignore them
6.     Sends a message of respect and caring
7.     Helps me create a world I can believe in
8.     Demonstrates taking accountability for my actions
9.     Honors reality
10.  Sets an example for others
11.  Creates opportunities for intimacy and true connection
12.  Bolsters self-confidence
13.  It honors the fact that you choose how you respond to circumstances
14.  Helps us discover ways to live together constructively
15.  Guides my actions to a life of integrity
16.  Defies social convention
17.  Liking myself is more important than whether you like me
18.  Is an expression of my freedom
19.  Creates consistency and alignment
20.  Makes relationships more meaningful

Why do you think it is so difficult to tell the truth? And what are your reasons for telling the truth?


As part of our exploration of “telling the truth”, and why it’s often seen as a radical act in organizations, we brainstormed a list of why telling the truth could seem like a bad idea.

Here are our  Top 20 Reasons to Avoid Telling the Truth:

1.     Our relationship might change or crumble if we tell each other the truth

2.     It is uncomfortable and anxiety-producing

3.     I don’t think you need, or deserve, to know the truth

4.     You might not like me if I tell the truth

5.     It would force me to admit I am wrong

6.     I’ve learned people don’t really like to hear the truth

7.     It could put my job or career at risk

8.     Avoiding the truth is a social convention that helps us get along better

9.     The truth could put someone in harm’s way

10.  I don’t want to admit to, or live with, a harsh reality

11.  We might not agree on what “the truth” is

12.  Relationships, organizations and institutions don’t really support truth-telling

13.  Telling the truth would compromise a promise to keep someone’s secret

14.  It might mean I won’t get what I want

15.  Feelings could get bruised (mine or yours)

16.  I want to control you by manipulating the truth

17.  Last time I told the truth, it just got me in trouble

18.  Why should I do it when no one else does?

19.  I don’t think you can handle the truth

20.  The truth is unknowable, so what difference does it make?

What did we miss? Are any of these your favorites?

Next time, we’ll share our Top 20 list of Reasons to Tell the Truth