The reaction to the story was typical to that of similar stories I'd written for the magazine. A group of readers took me to task for not understanding that being light on the truth was how business got done and it was naÃ¯ve to believe otherwise. Others found it appalling that any entrepreneur would think it was OK to lie to get what he needed to get his business going. Still others told me that my defense of posturing was a slippery slope and I should reconsider my thinking.
But my belief that outright lying to get ahead in business is wrong still holds.
More than a decade after writing that article, I received an email from the entrepreneur telling me he was sitting in an airport waiting for a flight. He wanted to take the time to let me know the article that featured his tactics had stuck with him all of these years, but that, unlike me, he still sees nothing wrong in what he did. He maintained that he did what he had to do to get started, words very similar to what he had said 10 years before.
The question for me was how to respond to his email. Was a strident, "You just don't get it and here's why," called for? Or was no response the best?
The right thing, I decided, was to respond, thank him for his email and let him know that while I'm glad he was at peace with everything he described doing in the article, I still was not and hoped that others would not be, either. Each of us seems comfortable with our truth.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin
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(c) 2014 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. Distributed by TRIBUNECONTENT AGENCY, LLC.