Google the term binary honesty and you will find that it does not exist. That’s because we just invented the term, having defined it as follows:

Binary Honesty: Marked by truth in an either-or scenario.

For example, the question “Do you follow Rip Red Tape on Twitter?” requires binary honesty: one has either joined the RRT community on Twitter or one has not.

By contrast, another classification of honesty is that of spectral honesty, which we also just made up:

Spectral Honesty: Marked by subjective accuracy in response to a question, e.g., measurable on a spectrum.

For example, the question “Does Rip Red Tape have the best corporate culture blog on the Internet?” warrants a response which will have layers of truth based on a number of factors. According to, Rip Red Tape Blog is currently the sixth-most successful corporate culture blog on the Internet,* but this is spectral…it is based on a number of factors and metrics which are subjective in nature. Grateful and humbled by the recognition!

My Air Force Academy roommate once asked whether he had a chance at dating Taylor Swift. I don’t regret the fact that I responded, “Yeah, anything’s possible.” It was not possible. But a little white lie ain’t never hurt nobody.

When a friend tells a white lie, or falls on the naughty end of the honesty spectrum, we have to give him or her a pass.

But when a corporate teammate lacks binary honesty–when he or she gets caught in a binary lie, no matter the degree of importance–he or she must be removed from the corporation without delay or sympathy.

Part 2 of 2 of this article will justify this conclusion and look closer at the role of binary honesty in our organizations, so check out the following blog entry, and comment/share your thoughts with the community in the meantime!


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