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Honesty is the Best Policy


I work for a very small company. My boss wants the company to appear bigger than it is. Therefore he wants me to use made up names when dealing with vendors and clients so people think we have a larger company. Some people are afraid to do business with small companies. Please advise. Thanks and may God bless you all always!

AskTheRabbi.org answered:

I applaud your sensitivity to an issue like this, one that could potentially cost you your job if your boss doesn’t share the same moral compass that you have.

It’s evident from your question that you realize the wrongness and unethical behavior of tricking clients into thinking that your company is larger — and therefore more “reliable” in their eyes — than it honestly is. Even if your boss feels that the company is reputable, does honest and good work for a fair price, this practice would be unethical. This would be true even if you feel that the company is just as good or even better than a larger company. Lying is misleading and dishonest, and the end does not justify the means.

In Hebrew, tricking somebody into thinking something that is not true is called “geneivat da’at”. This literally means “stealing one’s mind”, which is an apt description of spreading false information.

Judaism teaches that one who is involved in a business practice should be careful to always be faithful and honest in his dealings with customers. A person should have trust and confidence that God will help his business succeed financially in a “kosher” way, with “kosher money” being earned.

In fact, the Talmudic Rabbis teach that this is the first question (or one of the first questions) that a person is asked by the “Heavenly Court” when he stands in judgment after his soul leaves the physical world. “Did you conduct your business dealings honestly and truthfully?” he is asked.

Therefore, I would suggest you try to very respectfully suggest to your boss that he try selling his wares without doing anything that is dishonest, and see how he reacts to your words and sincerity. However, if you are concerned for your possible loss of livelihood if you confront your boss — even in a non-confrontational manner — then I suggest that you speak in person with a local Orthodox Rabbi (I can suggest someone if you need a referral). But in my experience, someone with your outstanding morality and concern for being honest with others will not be a “happy camper” if your conscience bothers you with tricking other people in a dishonest manner, even if doing so helps bolsters your bottom line of financial success. Success and happiness can be measured in various ways, and it seems clear to me that your way of measuring is in line with the ethical, pleasant and truthful way of the Torah and Judaism.

May God bless you with the insight to always say the right words at the right time. I wish you much happiness and success, and please feel free to write again at any time.

View this question on the AskTheRabbi.org website

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