A perspective on honesty

Reuben Ray
4 min readFeb 16, 2022


An understanding of honesty as an application at the workplace.

When we talk about being honest, we presume it from our own understanding of it’s meaning and relate to it the way we prefer to define our interpretation of honesty. It has been long debated and observed that not every truth is honest after all! Cultures define what is considered as honest or true and thus objectify the classification of such abstractions in a world of myriad situational realities.

To begin with, honesty is subjective. It is so subjective that you would be amazed at how many versions of honesty can be possible. What is day for one part of the world is night for the other side while what is spicy for a child is bland for a Mexican food enthusiast! Let us minds learn this first.

So, when are we honest or how do we deal with understanding the honesty in a person? Frankly speaking, it is difficult and cumbersome to assess. What however can be assessed are the elements which make them honest, or trigger fear and/or respect to be honest for 80–90% part of their lives. After all, even the sociopath wants to be honest at times, provided there is a guarantee of no legal implications.

There are four core orientations at being honest;

Morality: Ethics or our inner moral drive to be honest can be the highest level of honesty where one is honest for believing in the power of honesty itself. This is rare, but is not yet fully absent yet among humans. Morality is a value we highly cherish in others, but rarely practice ourselves.

Law Abidance: Law abiding citizens are not actually honest, but wherever there is a legal fallback, it forces them to be honest. While this might be diametrically opposite to morality, it highlights fear and/or respect for the law, where it suits our narrative and forces us to behave honestly.

Responsibility: We try to be honest with our children or our bosses, as we believe it is part of the value which the role demands. Responsible honesty is situational and based on the importance of honesty as contained within the role as a dimension of performance.

Self-preservation: This is the dimension where survival is involved or when we seek to avoid taking positions or responsibility, and hence it is diametrically opposite to responsibility as an orientation. A brilliant example of being honest with weight loss is the fact that it provides for self-preservation.

All creatures in nature are oriented to self-preservation.

This means that the default orientation for sentient honesty among humans is the purpose of self-preservation too! Recall the child being honest when there is a fear of a mother’s wrath? That’s basic human nature.

What is the best orientation hence, provided we exclude morality? Responsibility scores being high is the best, as being honest with each role we play can act as a beacon to guide us towards being honest as an approach and practice. People with high self-preservation scores as an orientation can be lazy and only act when their own stakes are in danger, while law abidance is highly subjective and makes us jump traffic signals when we assume no one’s tracking us.

While this knowledge might be great as a purveyor of honesty, the applications can also be very interesting.

Are you hiring for a role where honesty is a precondition?

Is honesty a part of your transactions like transportation or retail business?

Is law abidance a part of ethical practice for select positions like Board members?

Are you dealing with high-value risks as in defense secrets and hence honesty is an a priori?

Do you deal with sensitive information or cash to preclude honesty like banking and loans?

I have designed a Survey and would offer a free round for anyone interested. The idea itself came from a client need to assess honesty for their financial business to assess customers and employees. Thus we sought to create an inventory to understand which stick makes one follow the carrot!

The world would be a better place if we were selfishly honest and acted purely with the goal of self-preservation. Leaders or people scalers, as I prefer to call true leaders, need to be more honest with their responsibilities as to be selfishly honest with their roles. Lack of honesty in solving problems creates mistrust, one of the key fallouts of dishonesty.

All religions demand fortitude towards religious morality while prescribing responsibility as an orientation for honesty towards the faith. This causes faiths to clash and what is often termed as fundamentalism is actually a high responsibility orientation towards the practiced faith rather than the religion. At workplaces alike, people as employees specialise in their practiced faith of domain skills and thus end up contesting and causing conflicts among teams in similar episodes. This itself is a subject of another article for my readers to look out for in my future writings.

Children must be taught to be honest as a responsibility orientation rather than law abidance, so that they do not steal or commit themselves to dishonest means as growing up into adults. Law abidance on the other hand (and which is the practiced ethos) makes them take risks as they know they may not get caught or max let go with a reprimand.

I would like to conclude that it is not possible to assess honesty; but we can today assess the fears or values which drive us to be honest. Till then, let us try to be honest with our own selves first by orienting towards honesty as a responsibility.



Reuben Ray

Author of Reasoning Our Choices & HR Analytics In-Depth; Co-Founder, Pexitics.com & a passionate People Coach