Honesty in Organizations

The purpose of this review is to bring together, synthesize, and consolidate the many insights researchers have discovered about honesty from the past two decades, and to identify new questions, insights, and areas for future inquiry. By conducting a systematic, structured review of empirical research published in peer-reviewed journals in management, applied psychology, and business ethics on the topic honesty, we will generate new insights into the following questions: What is honesty? What do we know about honesty in organizations? What has been studied and learned during the last two decades? What do we not yet know that we ought to?

Existing research and frameworks suggest that individuals have two primary behaviors available to them when deciding how to communicate: they can lie or tell the truth. Accordingly, much of the organizational literature has focused on why people choose to lie, and what organizations and individuals can do to curb lying. This research implies that if we can curb lying, we can promote honesty. We argue, however, that people do not simply lie or tell the truth. Rather, they employ nuanced and subtle communication tactics to reap the benefits of dishonesty without the intrapersonal and interpersonal costs.

Our review will provide a unifying lens to disparate behaviors by uniting them under the umbrella of honesty. This will allow us to expand the scope of honesty beyond lying, which is critical for addressing issues in modern organizations and society related to how information may be selectively gained (e.g., self-deception, motivated reasoning, strategic ignorance) as well the intentions behind conveying certain information to an audience (e.g., misinformation, disinformation). Based on the initial results of our systematic, structured review of honesty, we have developed a new framework that will help to organize the literature on honesty and generate new insights.

Research Team: Cooper, B., Cohen, T. R., Huppert, E., Levine, E. E., & Fleeson, W.

Current Status: Forthcoming, Academy of Management Annals, 17(2).

Binyamin Cooper
Binyamin Cooper
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

My research explores positive and negative interpersonal communication behaviors, and factors which may modify their impact on individuals and groups in organizations.