The 10 Most Common Workplace Lies

businesswoman,with-fingers-crossed-behind-backWriting 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 your falsehoods.

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 each:

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Carol Kinsey Goman

Carol Kinsey Goman

Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., president of Kinsey Consulting Services, is a keynote speaker, executive coach, and leadership consultant. Clients include 105 organizations in 24 countries. Carol is a leadership contributor for Forbes and the Washington Post. She has authored eleven books. Her latest book is The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help or Hurt How You Lead. A leading authority on leadership, change-management, collaboration, and body language in the workplace, Carol has been cited in media such as The Wall Street Journal, Industry Week, Investor's Business Daily, CNN's Business Unusual, SmartBrief on Leadership, Executive Excellence, Oprah.com, NPR's Marketplace, Fox News, and the NBC Nightly News. Carol has served as adjunct faculty at John F. Kennedy University in the International MBA program, at U.C. Berkeley in the Executive Education Department, for the Chamber of Commerce of the United States at their Institutes for Organization Management and is a current faculty member with the Institute for Management Studies.

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