The modern Stoic writer Nassim Taleb has a famous epigram: “If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.”
What is a fraud you might ask? In law, fraud is deliberate deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain, or to deprive a victim of a legal right. In this post, I consider fraud as a broader concept. Something that includes illegal activities, but much more. A simple lie to yourself or just ignoring a process can make you or me a fraud in my view.
Let’s take an example. I want to meet a deadline and I know that I cannot make it unless I skip the steps of testing, refactoring with the result of delivering legacy code directly. In that case, I’m a fraud as I did it consciously. If I end up doing the same thing, but because of bad practices or lack of education, it just makes me a bad professional.
Both are bad, but I think the former is worse. If I make a shortcut on purpose and I ignore my values, I ignore the way I know I should work, it means that I just don’t care enough to perform quality work. On the other hand, if I just end up being bad a professional in certain situations and I’m not happy with it, it’s something that I can learn out of, something that I can correct.
What to do if you see someone else in your team not following the processes you agreed on? What to do if you notice that someone doesn’t respect the values your team shares? Can it be that your team doesn’t really share these values? Were they just stated by someone? Did someone say that these are the common values and there was no consensus on them? It might be the case, but that’s for another discussion.
According to Taleb if you don’t say fraud in such cases, you are a fraud. I think he is right. If you notice a “buddy review” or if you see that someone doesn’t show respect towards the others then you should speak up. How to speak up is yet another question, but any way you do is better than staying silent. Even if speaking up costs for you. If it costs your job, that’s it. Better now than later! The constant confrontation between your values and your environment would eat you up anyway.
If you see a fraud, say fraud. Otherwise, you’re just a fraud. Are you a fraud?