However, buried half-way down the page, the article noted that only two employees out of 90,000 using government charge cards had porn purchases. That grabbing headline compared to the reality of the actual number made me curious about the rest. How much of the government-employee portrait headline was hype? A lot.
What the Treasury Department's watchdog report actually found was, "IRS workers on the whole stick to the rules when they use government credit cards." Of course, that doesn't make a good sound bite. The report "indentified improprieties in only about two-tenths of 1 percent of transactions" in two years worth of IRS employee credit card transactions.
So when over 98% of employees consistently show trustworthy behavior, it's okay to shout news about a handful who don't? Really? Where's the headline that reads "Report Finds Rules Followed in Nearly All 273,000 IRS Employee Credit Card Transactions." Of course, that wouldn't be sexy or intriguing, or get lots of clicks.
While those who did violate or abuse the rules should face scrutiny, perpetuating the current "gotcha" culture - the twenty-first century equivalent of a witch-hunt - impacts millions of people's perceptions that government employees can't be trust, when in fact, the reverse is true.
What about where you work? What myths are perpetuated there?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may unknowingly be contributing to the growing problem of workplace distrust:
Workplace trust is at an historic low. So is trust in government. Adding fuel to an already growing fire by highlighting the errors of a few or managing to the disruptive exceptions may create interesting conversations, but it's not the way to rebuild the trust that's broken. That starts with an honest understanding of what is true.
More about trust at work:
• Download "Operating with Trust," a complimentary chapter from my book, The Titleless Leader