Jan 22, 2012

Powerful People are Simply Better Liars

HBR’s recent report on this subject May 2010, page 32, deems a little introspection from a BI perspective.
Powerful people it seems make better liars, both to themselves and to others. They are often trained to lie and thus do not show the typical liars body language indications that people with lesser power do. Bosses normally get bigger offices, get listened to more often, take more decisions, earn more money and have more power. Bosses also suffer from the’ intelligence trap’ in which because a professional person is mostly right in their areas of operation they start to believe they are mostly right in all areas of operations. An example can be a top-notch CFO who becomes a Project owner. The CFO knows all there is about finance and accounting, profits and losses, general ledgers, about taxes and treasury, and other tings CFO’s need to know. Hover, they probably do not know a whole lot about the innards of business intelligence.  More often than not these CFO’s, under the value definition of their auditing partners, who also happen to be their BI implementation partner’s, simply regurgitate the partner instructions as if they are their own. If the project succeeds then the success is theirs of course, but if it fails the mistake can never be theirs and it rarely ever is.
In an independent research ‘The Readers digest’ conducted a national honesty experiment. In this they dropped a wallet with $100 on the road, with a visiting card to a telephone of a auditing bystander close by. Globally the highest number of thefts was conducted by rich and powerful people who had little use for a $100 bill. Some of them simply looked at the money and the card, picked out the money and threw the wallet in the nearest garbage bin. Surprisingly some of the people who possibly needed the money the most were the ones who returned it consistently. Their reason ‘.. the person who lost it probably really needs this money..”
The HBR study by Dana Carney ended with similar results when their asked different subject to actually steal $100 and lie to the interviewer. If they passed the lie test of the interviewer then they could keep the $100 bill. The more powerful the person the more efficiently they got away with the lie. The reading from people with power was consistent with as if they were telling the truth.  The data also works on a Pavlovian principle that believes ‘Only when a kid burns their hands on fire, do they understand it is hot”, with this principles the less powerful people do not touch hot stoves because it hurts them. The research suggests that powerful people don’t get burned when they touch these figurative stoves.
This evokes a lot of questions like does power beget proportional lying and does the lying of powerful improve over time?  Don’t have an answer to that right now..
What other information is there that powerful people can be scoundrels? HBR reports that they are conducting another study about the effect of power on risk. They started with animal like where peacocks, birds, cobras spread out as a show of power. Humans do this too. Powerful people tend to put their feet on the table, stretch out, lean back on the chair with their legs spread wide and hands clasped behind their head. Subordinate people keep their feet together, arms at their side and occupying the least space possible. In the study when the same people were reversed with these power body language they actually were able to generate higher testosterones (more power)and lower cortisol (Less Stress) levels and took more decisions that people in the less power positions.
In the BI side how many times have you been given strict guidelines by a powerful project owner, and how many times have they been fired when the project went wrong?  So it is clearly established that the lead at the head of the table, arms behind their head is going to take all the risks and give you all the instructions. The glory will be theirs. The blood and sweat will always be your to own and be accountable for.

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