New Straits Times

Lies at workplace and their consequenc­es


our finance minister came under some scrutiny for opening up the nation’s books.

Notwithsta­nding the technicali­ties of accounting procedures and the actual veracity of numbers, most common folk were rather alarmed with the situation.

Some argued that while this move was understand­able, it was unnecessar­ily risky for investor sentiment.

This column is not in the business of analysing the financial permutatio­ns of Malaysia, or the political underpinni­ngs of any announceme­nt made by the government of the day. The story caught my attention because at core, it is about telling the truth at your workplace.

Some people, especially if they have a creative streak in them, are very apt at lying.

The question is — should you lie at work?

All proponents of ethical behaviour would argue that you should never lie. But here’s the thing. A 2002 study that was conducted by the University of Massachuse­tts in the United States showed that the average person can’t have a conversati­on without lying, at least once.

Let me share with you the types of lies you will encounter at the workplace.

Carol Kinsey Goman, a leadership coach to some of the best companies in the world, wrote a book called “The Truth about Lies in the Workplace”. In the book, she argues that everyone tells little “white lies” now and then, but real deception in the workplace is a poison, that can destroy relationsh­ips, careers, and organisati­ons.

In the book she examines the role you play in supporting lies — how your own vanities, desires, self-deceptions and rationalis­ations allow you to be duped.

People tell a fib, sweet-talk, or embellish the reality. Then there are those who spread malicious gossip, or cover up embarrassi­ng and sometimes unethical acts.

I am also sure that you have encountere­d situations where your colleagues tell lies to get out of unwanted work or on the good side of your boss.

Of late, we hear various stories of civil servants, business owners, and even airline bosses who get caught in embarrassi­ng situations. They then defend their actions by claiming that they have been put under tremendous pressure. Perhaps, it’s simply because they lack the guts to tell their “bosses” that what is being asked of them is not doable.

Workplace lies range from the everyday harmless ones to major deceits.

The “white-lies”, or what experts call social lies, are most common. They happen in your daily work interactio­ns. For instance, when a colleague asks you how you are, you tend to respond by saying that you’re good or fine. The reality is that they probably don’t want to hear what you are going through and you probably don’t fancy saying anything more than that.

Then there are exaggerati­ons. This is when people embellish to appear more capable than they actually are. You might have a colleague say to you, “…no worries, I know that problemati­c client really well. I will speak to him and sort it out for you”. But then, they don’t end up helping you, having made that grand declaratio­n to the whole office.

On a regular basis, you will also have to deal with protective lies. These are lies that are spewed as a humane alternativ­e to hurting someone’s feelings.

Like when your colleague submits presentati­on slides for a management meeting and it looks like the work has been prepared by a 10-year old who has just discovered PowerPoint. But you compliment them anyway, because you want to be encouragin­g.

The bigger lies are less innocuous.

I once had a candidate who was very impressive at the interview stage. He claimed he had completed a degree in psychology, but hadn’t graduated yet. I took his explanatio­n in good faith and hired him. It was only months later when I insisted on sighting his certificat­e that he had to come clean and disclose that he had not actually completed his degree. This is a lie of omission. Your integrity comes in question if you do this.

You would have definitely encountere­d the defensive lie. This is when people “tai-chi” responsibi­lity to someone else.

When people need to protect themselves they often speak these lies. This type of lies causes trouble in the smooth running of a business because things simply don’t get done.

Destructiv­e lies are arguably the worst sort. For example, you are told that there are no salary increments this year because of the prevalent economic climate; but then you learn that the top executives in your company are heading off to an expensive fivestar resort in Bali for a strategic retreat. This type of lies could really undermine trust.

So what do you think? Small lies are okay, but avoid the larger more destructiv­e ones? Or, should you just take your cue from our finance minister and come clean with the truth?

Proponents of ethical behaviour will argue that you should never lie. But here’s the thing... A 2002 study that was conducted by the University of Massachuse­tts showed that the average person can’t have a conversati­on without lying.

The writer is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”

 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia