Which Liars Are You Thankful For - And How Do You Deal With The Rest
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often startled into silence when I ask them which workplace liars they
are most grateful for. But after a little encouragement and few minutes
reflection, they begin to come up with some interesting answers:
liars who say, “That’s a nice jacket” and don’t mention of the ten
pounds I’ve gained. What’s that – a lie of omission?
grateful for co-workers who ask me how my project is going, even if
they’re just being polite.
team leader tells us what a great job we’re doing. We all know it’s not
the truth, but we try to live up to her expectations.
So how about
you? Which liars -- and lies -- make your business interactions more
pleasant, energizing, friendly? Before I talk about dealing with liars,
it’s good to remember that not all liars need to be “dealt with.” Some,
in fact, should be thanked.
But as you
already know, not all liars are benevolent. Some spread malicious
gossip that can damage reputations and derail careers, some take undue
credit and kill team morale, and some lie about behaving unethically or
illegally and negatively impact the entire organization.
So -- how do
you deal with those liars?
answer is, I don’t know.
As much as I’d
like to offer you a one-size-fits-all formula for dealing with liars, I
can’t. I don’t know the “right answer” for your situation, because it
depends on how you evaluate a variety of factors. From “The Truth About
Lies in the Workplace,” here are six key questions to consider when
developing your own strategy:
#1 - Who’s the
liar? Liars may work with you, report to you, or hold hierarchical
power over you. You may be interviewing a liar, negotiating with one,
or working with one on the same team. You and the liar may be
professional rivals, good friends – or both. Each of these business
relationships brings its own level of intimacy, authority and
responsibility that may influence how you decide to proceed.
#2 – What is
the impact of the lie? Is the lie causing rework or harming the outcome
of a project? Is the lie destroying team spirit and collaboration? Is
it costing the organization money? Is it damaging the reputation of the
company? Is it hurting your (or someone else’s) professional
reputation? Could the lie get the wrong person hired – or fired? Or is
the lie simply annoying?
#3 – What is
the liar’s standing in the organization? Liars may be popular,
successful, powerful, and well connected in the organization’s
hierarchy. Or they may be disliked and distrusted. If it came to a
“your word against theirs” situation (which, by the way, you should
always try to avoid – so remember to document your case) who would most
likely be believed?
#4 – What’s
your goal? Do you want the liar to confess, or just to know that you
know? Do you want him or her to change behavior, to
apologize, to make retribution, or to face punitive action? (And if you
achieved that goal, how would it affect your future professional and
personal relationship with the liar?) If you are boss, do you want to
retain or to fire the liar?
#5 – What’s
your motive? Why is this important to you? For example, some people
No one should have to live with this abuse.
If I come forward, maybe others will do the
I’ve always hated that guy, and it just bugs me
to have to put up with him!
#6 – What are
your choices? You have three choices in dealing with liars: You can
confront them (directly challenging the lie or indirectly approaching
the topic, you can report them (to your boss or to the human resource
department), or you can ignore them and do nothing.
liars, quickly and directly, gives you the advantage of catching them
before they have time to practice (and perfect) the lie. It may also
give you a sense of personal satisfaction to expose the liar –
especially if it the lie was malicious or destructive.
Example of a
direct confrontation: Have you heard of the “higher-authority ploy,” in
which your boss blames his or her
boss for denying your request? Often it is just an easy way to say “no”
without talking personal responsibility. The manager who tells this lie
believes you will simply accept the decision of the higher authority.
One savvy employee put an end to this subterfuge when she countered,
“What specifically did your boss say when you asked about this?” (By
the way: Asking any suspected liar what someone else said is a good
tactic to remember. Deceivers find it more difficult to make up
comments from another person.)
strategy that was sent to me in a recent email. It’s a direct approach
with a congenial twist: “If I sense that someone is withholding
pertinent information, I meet directly with him/her to say that I’m
most effective when armed with all the knowledge and information that
will help us meet our stated goals. It’s my ‘collaboration card,’ and
it works quite well.”
Dealing with a
liar presents the challenge of, perhaps, having to maintain a business
relationship with the perpetrator. If that is the case, an indirect
confrontation might serve you better than a direct accusation. This is
most effective when your primary objective is to confirm your
suspicions or to simply let the liar know that you know the real story.
Example of an
indirect confrontation: Let’s say that a team member lies in a meeting,
and you want to give him a way out. You might approach him privately
and say: “I didn’t understand what you just said, but I may not have
all the information. Could you tell me again what you meant?”
will bring them to the attention of upper management, or in the case of
whistleblowers, to the attention of authorities and (sometimes) the
press. But be aware that in acting as a whistleblower you will probably
not be able to protect your own anonymity. This is why you need to be
clear on how destructive this liar is, how well you have documented
your case, and how important it is to you to expose him/her. In very
serious cases, whistleblowers need to decide if they want to stay with
the organization or if they are willing to leave their employer.
With some lies
and liars you may choose to do nothing. Regardless of whether you are
dealing with the lies of a subordinate, a colleague or your manager,
doing nothing, at least initially, gives you the chance to think things
over and get your emotions under control. On the other hand, delaying
too long also gives the liar more time to continue spreading
misinformation or otherwise behaving badly. If you are the manager, it
may also appear to others that, by your silence, you are condoning the
deception. Still, in some cases you’ll decide that dealing with a
particular liar is just not worth the effort. It’s good advice to pick
your battles strategically. (It is also crucial to have a strong
network of workplace relationships based on mutual trust and support,
so you have plenty of colleagues you can go to for missing information
or to check out suspicious statements.)
If you decide
to ignore the lie, however, it doesn’t mean that the liar is forgiven.
That is a separate decision. As one still-annoyed team-member told me
about another: “I didn’t do anything, but I didn’t forget about the
lie. I will never trust him and I will never help him.”
Like many other
aspects of business relationships, dealing effectively with liars in
the workplace takes a thoughtful and individualized strategy. That
strategy begins with the answers to these six simple, but not-so easy,
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 2013-12-19 09:14:19 in Personal Articles