The 10 Most Common Lies at Work
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Writing “The Truth About Lies in
the Workplace” allowed me to document the variety of lies we encounter
daily. In the workplace people fib, flatter, fabricate, prevaricate,
equivocate, embellish, “take liberties
with,” “bend,” or “stretch” the truth. They boast, conceal, falsify,
omit, spread gossip, misinform, or cover-up embarrassing (perhaps even
unethical) acts. They lie in order to avoid accepting responsibility,
to build status and power, to “protect” others from hearing a negative
truth, to preserve a sense of autonomy, to keep their jobs, to get out
of unwanted work, to get on the good side of the boss, to be perceived
as “team players” when their main interest is self-interest. Or they
lie because they’re under pressure to perform and because (as one
co-worker observed about his teammates) “they lack the guts to tell the
boss that what is being asked isn’t doable.”
Some people are better than
others at lying. If you are creative, you are one of them. Not because
creativity makes you more likely to be dishonest but because you’re
probably good at convincing yourself of your own lies. If you have a
charismatic or dominant personality (as many C-Suite executives do),
you probably also have a special capacity to deceive -- which doesn’t
mean you lie more than others, it just suggests that when you do,
you’re more skilled at it. If you’re an extravert you lie at a higher
rate than introverts. If you are intelligent, you can think
strategically and plan ahead like a good chess player -- and you can
better handle the “cognitive load” imposed by lying. If you are
manipulative or overly concerned about the impression you are making on
others you tell more lies. If you are adept at reading body language,
you are also adept at sensing when other people are getting suspicious.
And if you have a good memory, you are less likely to be tripped up by
Workplace lies run the gamut,
from small, everyday lies to whoppers, from benign (even helpful) to
destructive. Here are the 10 major categories of lies with examples of
1. Social lies are the lubricant of
relationships. We couldn’t survive in business – or in society --
without them. With social or “white” lies, there is an implicit deal
struck between the liar and the lie-ee: You won’t tell me the
unvarnished truth, and I won’t scrutinize everything you say.
If I ask you how things are
going, I don’t want to hear the story of your life. Just say “fine,”
and I’ll do the same.
2. Lies of exaggeration are the
when people try to appear more capable than they really are.
My husband’s an actor. If they
need men on horseback for a scene, he’ll swear he’s an expert rider.
3. Lies of omission are meant to mislead by
out a critical piece of information and letting the recipient draw the
The job candidate said he felt
“stifled” in his previous job, so he left the organization. He
neglected to mention that he’d been fired.
4. Protective lies are often seen as an
alternative to hurting someone’s feelings.
I complimented her on the
presentation because I didn’t want her to be discouraged.
5. Defensive lies are an attempt to protect
oneself or to avoid punishment.
It’s not my fault. No one told me
was supposed to send out the agenda.
6. Blatant falsehoods are readily exposed
sources or eventual outcomes. Because of that, the liar is viewed as
unaware and out of touch.
Recently a senior leader was
fired and it was announced as a “retirement.” That was a blatant and
stupid lie, as we heard the truth from the person who was let go.
7. Destructive lies poison workplace
by destroying trust.
We were told it was a matter of
cutting costs, and that if we just gave up a little – the company would
get back on track. So we did. Only to find out that the top executives
had given themselves salary increases and bonuses.
8. Malicious gossip is meant to undermine,
destroy another person’s career.
When my colleague didn’t get the
assignment, he spread the rumor that I was chosen because I took credit
for other people’s ideas.
9. Small lies are readily forgiven or
My manager gave out an earlier
due date (for the completion of a project) than was necessary. She knew
some people would procrastinate and she wanted to make sure the work
was done on schedule.
10. Big lies are almost never forgotten nor
My boss assured me that my
position was secure – then he accidentally copied me on an email about
interviewing my replacement.
About the Author
Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.is an international
Keynote speaker on collaborative leadership and the impact of
language in the workplace.
coach to executives to improve their leadership presence and
Leadership blogger for Forbes and author of "The Silent Language of
Leaders: How Body Language Can Help - or Hurt - How You Lead.”
Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com Authors Google+
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2013-10-23 11:33:45 in Personal Articles