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What is bluffing?

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ex_banana-eater
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Bluff - To deter or frighten by pretense or a mere show of strength. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bluffing)

Can you give an example of bluffing in business? Who is the business trying to trick? Who's it lying to? The synonyms I just used lead me to suspect that bluffing being a form of deception, has the moral status of lying, and is therefore immoral.

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Yeah, I can't see how that would be good idea. If an employer wants his employee to do better work, then he should just tell them that and say why it's in their interest to perform (incentives like bonus considerations, how they'll feel when they further apply themselves...). Starting a fire under them by lying is just plain wrong, even if it did get a lazy employee to work harder. Rational people just don't lie to each other.

"If you don't turn yourself around I will fire you. Maybe not this month, but you just wait..." The truth is wonderful.

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Maybe a boss comes to talk to his employee and says "We are having a hard time and might have to let go of the person with the lowest sales this month" to try to get his employee to work harder to keep his job, even though he probably wouldn't fire him this month unless things got significantly worse.

No, this example is more of a 'double bluff' - displaying fake weakness, in order to motivate his employee, or just pleading poverty, to gain sympathy. Whereas, an outright bluff is displaying fake strength, and trying to put on a confident front when things are bad.

I'd say there's a fine line ( in the business scenario ) between ethical, and unethical behaviour. Without distinct deception and lies, there shouldn't be anything immoral about appearing more confident than one feels - to employees, suppliers, competition, the bank, etc., - in fact it is probably in one's self-interest to 'bluff it out' for a while.

Doesn't it all come back to your self-interest, against these other people's right to be informed?

Of course what matters is when you start faking reality to yourself.

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Without distinct deception and lies, there shouldn't be anything immoral about appearing more confident than one feels - to employees, suppliers, competition, the bank, etc., - in fact it is probably in one's self-interest to 'bluff it out' for a while.

Definitely a good point. If this is what bluffing is, then I don't see any reason for it being wrong or considered dishonesty. What if, for example, you are nervous about talking to a girl but don't want to shake and look at the floor when you approach her? Those actions are certainly not mandatory actions to display to be "honest" with someone. In fact, I doubt they can even be considered "fake," because the interpretation of your body language or voice tone by someone is not a true indication of your feelings. I can smile when I'm sad, for example, and I don't consider that dishonest.

Edited by ex_banana-eater
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The boss is lying -- faking reality: you think that's motivating the employees?

That's not how I interpreted the scenario. It seemed more like the boss might be exaggerating rather than lying. I do doubt it's the best strategy to use but may work with certain employees.

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That's not how I interpreted the scenario. It seemed more like the boss might be exaggerating rather than lying. I do doubt it's the best strategy to use but may work with certain employees.
If you do not intend to fire the employee and are only using the empty threat of termination as an "exaggeration" intended to whatever (motivate/intimidate) the employee into working harder, then that's plainly lying. What do you think the difference between "exaggerating" and "lying" is?
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If you do not intend to fire the employee and are only using the empty threat of termination as an "exaggeration" intended to whatever (motivate/intimidate) the employee into working harder, then that's plainly lying. What do you think the difference between "exaggerating" and "lying" is?

Typically, bosses have to let go of poorly performing employees if the situation gets really bad. So what boss wouldn't intend to fire the employee in such a situation? Maybe he is exaggerating the extent of what the financial situation of the company could like like in the coming months, but that's called a worst case estimate.

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