#AlternativeFacts – It’s About Values and Being, Not Doing

Years ago, I worked briefly for an organization with a boss, “Kim”, that we all suspected frequently used “alternative facts” when telling us about business matters. He was smart, energetic, likeable and had a great strategic mind, but there was also something going on in him that caused him to “spin” the story and try to make himself look better than reality. Sometimes he withheld information to give himself an edge that others didn’t have (a false belief, by the way). Sometimes he exaggerated, again to position himself in a positive light. And sometimes he just didn’t say anything even when he needed to speak out.

Kim told us that he “expected complete loyalty” and also hired family members to work there creating some unhealthy power triangles. Kim didn’t notice that when we were in meetings with one relative in particular that this person became the de facto boss. Kim would silently comply to this person’s strong, and not particularly helpful, opinions. (Similarities to the current White House staff situation are unintended.)

The most serious situation occurred when I learned that Kim had done something unethical. If that situation had become public it could have ruined his career and done great harm to the company’s brand. While the ending to the story is interesting, what’s more important is what do you do if you end up in a situation like this, particularly with a boss figure that’s unpredictable and not trustworthy.

Here are some suggestions to consider. I want to be clear that I’m not advising you do these things, but to consider them and particularly the implications of taking these actions.

  1. Do nothing. Just let the situation play itself out and watch and learn.
  2. Talk to an HR expert if there’s one available, or perhaps an HR attorney to find out a reasonable path forward.
  3. Tell a confidant, and ask for advice.
  4. Directly confront the boss behind a closed door, or in the open.
  5. Take a third party with you to confront the boss.
  6. Go over the boss’s head to a higher authority, if possible.
  7. Put your concerns in an email to the boss.
  8. Put your concerns in an email and click “Send All”…just kidding!

In the course of a forty-plus year career in various places, I’ve done #1-6 above at one time or another. Some with stellar results and others…not so much. While I can’t encourage you to take one of the paths listed above, I will offer this next piece of advice with great confidence.

You see, the options above are all “doing” things, not “being.” What are your most strongly held core values? Perhaps courage, truth-telling, risk-taking, transparency, peace-making, or honesty would make your list. Whatever decision you make when in a difficult situation, be sure to first consider who you want to be before deciding what you will do. Then regardless of the outcome, you will have honored your values. You’ll be able to look yourself in the mirror and stand tall. This type of thinking and action creates new story endings that build character. Be the person you were intended to be!


This blog shares perspectives on how you have the ability to create new story endings that are meaningful, powerful and filled with hope. I facilitate transformational change processes helping organizations achieve maximum mission impact. Also, I provide leadership coaching to help executives and aspiring leaders become the fullest expression of who they’re intended to be. @beckerbits #aboutleadership