To Tell The Truth…

Honesty is the best policy...Earlier this week my editor at, Alan Newport, wrote an interesting post at his blog about what I might call the “integrity gap” with my generation that sparked a fair bit of social commentary.

(In truth, I am neither Generation X, nor Generation Y, or am perhaps of both. The years 1981/1982 appear to be the tipping point from one classification to the next, though in many respects I identify as much with my peers born prior to my own arrival as with those born after, minus all the negative social connotations associated with Gen X.)

The genesis of Newport’s post was a presentation by management consultant Don Tyler who shared that the current generation, in terms of managing employees in agribusiness operations, present some unique challenges as a workforce. Namely, Tyler suggested that this generation needs additional instruction or attention regarding moral concepts like “honesty” and “integrity.”

From the post:

Tyler said if such ethos are part of your company’s core values you need to write them down, verbally stress them and walk them out, and you should explain what these words mean to these young people.

You mean they don’t know?

To me, it is an appalling sign of the times that we have a whole generation of people to don’t understand what it means to be honest or to have integrity or to tell the truth.

If Tyler is to be believed, Newport’s fears about the societal ramifications of this realization are spot-on. My friends on Facebook, however, disagreed with Tyler (and Newport)… fairly vocally.

My friend Dan shared this: “I tend to think honesty and integrity are among the two highest concepts the Millennial Generation understands and values. This generation is very very adept at knowing when somebody is being fake. They don’t appreciate it, and they don’t put up with it.”

He cited a desire for transparency as feeding the various uprisings around the world, and specifically that young people are organizing those movements using “the social tools that they know like the back of their hands to allow them to do it.”

Dan has a point. When uber-blogger Jesse Bussard posted Newport’s piece on the Facebook page of NCBA’s Young Producers’ Council, the response was quite similar: the young cattlemen were offended to be painted with such a broad brush.

Here’s where I part company with my cohort, however: we, in agriculture and rural America, cannot assume we are representative of the entire demographic.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is well-known for his admiration of rural America’s contributions to this nation, and one statistic he shares may make my point entirely: While on 16 percent of the nation’s population lives in rural America, over 40 percent of our nation’s military personnel come from small towns and “out in the country.”

In other words, we think and act a little differently “out here” than they do in the “big city.”

Now, let’s stop for a minute and acknowledge that a rural upbringing is not causative of an ethic of honesty and integrity, but rather than there is a strong correlation between the two.

I am not surprised my rural/agricultural friends in social media were offended by Newport’s piece, or rather by Tyler’s observations. They were offended because they share the same beliefs and value structure as you and me.

The problem with basing grain marketing decisions on the field you see out your kitchen window is that you ignore all the other fields across the Corn Belt. The problem with getting your dander up over a broad statement about your generation is that you ignore all the other people giving your generation a bad name.

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About Andy Vance

Grains and Biofuels Editor at Feedstuffs, the weekly newspaper for agribusiness, and resident blogger at If the pen is truly mightier than the sword, I may be the most dangerous man I know...

2 Responses to “To Tell The Truth…”

  1. I am a Gen-Xer and have worked with a long trail of Millennial interns in my organization, many of whom have been very honest and upstanding people with a bright future (and most of whom have also come from a rural farm upbringing). However, overall I tend to agree with Mr. Newport’s assessment of the Millennial generation.

    For all the people you have heard crying foul and claiming that honesty and integrity are so important to this generation, I’d like to ask each of them if they’ve ever stretched the truth on a resume or plagiarized portions of a paper in school… and did they consider that to be dishonest or displaying a lack of integrity…

    It all comes down to defining the terms. Of course I’m honest (when I can define what “honest” means).

  2. Yes…they know fakery when they see it and hear it. Who is more apt to detect it? the honest ones or the phoneys? Liars know other liars in the crowd. Most real research suggests they” lack empathy, cheat and steal at higher levels than their forebearers, our more prone to narcissistic traits.