Two recent, high profile stories have got me thinking about lies in business.
Honesty and integrity are among my core values, so I’ve always found it fascinating to see how people’s actions demonstrate where their moral compass is orientated. We all know actions speak louder than words, and we also know that we ALL lie in some way.
So which stories have prompted this blog? Firstly (and obviously) the FIFA debacle and disgraceful leadership of Sepp Blatter. And secondly, an older story reignited; a new film about Lance Armstrong (The Program) told from the perspective of David Walsh, the Sunday Times journalist who spent 14 years trying to expose him.
Both Armstrong and Blatter have told barefaced, whopping lies. Over and over again. People who tried to stand up to them were quashed, ridiculed or ostracised. It makes my blood run cold to see the footage of their bold, blatant lies. All told with utter conviction.
So, given these two stories, I thought I’d share a few interesting articles on lying, and my personal top five tips on dealing with lies in the workplace.
Lie-spotting: This TED talk by Pamela Meyer opens with the disturbing fact that on any given day we’re lied to from ten to two-hundred times. You might think you’re quite good at spotting the little things that give away a lie (e.g. not looking someone in the eye). But watch this talk – there are some surprising ‘lie-tells’.
I like Meyer’s assertion that honesty is a value worth preserving. She offers us the option of moving from lie-spotting to truth seeking, and ultimately trust building.
Liars in the workplace: For some reason dishonesty in the workplace makes me angrier than people lying outside work. On reflection, I think that’s because in my personal life I can choose to cast out big fat liars. At work, it’s not so easy to avoid them. Here are a couple of interesting articles:
11 ways to spot a psychopath at work: The concept of psychopathic traits being part of what makes a great leader has become a popular topic of debate in recent years. Being a liar comes in at no5 in this article on the ways to spot a psychopath.
“A tendency to misrepresent the facts while appearing plausible and reasonable, along with a lack of guilt or anxiety over telling lies is another hallmark of psychopathic behaviour”.
If you read this and realise you are working for a psychopath, there is a lot of advice online on how to make the relationship as productive as it can be.
3 steps to deal with someone who takes credit for your work: This article from Jo Miller of BeLeaderly.com has some great advice on this. It’s possibly one of the most common examples of lying in the workplace. Miller’s tips show you how to deal with it when it happens and set the record straight.
Here are my top five tips for dealing with lies in the workplace.
- Be careful about what you perceive to be a lie: Sometimes people are just taking different things out of the same meeting/discussion. We all experience life in a way that is unique to us, based on a complex range of psychological patterns and experience. A good place to start is to consider what is fact, versus what is interpretation of that fact, before you leap in and confront a lie.
- Choose your battles: If you tried to deal with every workplace lie you’d be exhausted. Choose to deal with those people who have told lies that have an impact that is really important to you. One other point, don’t take on battles for other people or you could end up becoming the victim!
- Be realistic about the effect of calling-out a liar: By this I don’t mean avoid calling them out. I just mean think about what will happen next. What do you want the outcome of your ‘post-lie’ conversation to be? Sadly, some organisations have toxic cultures of dishonesty which allow people to blame ‘the company’ for their dishonesty. If this is the case, be prepared to ask the liar to comment on their personal responsibility for the lie.
- Remain calm and have your facts straight: If you’ve decided there is a lie that it is important for you to confront, work hard to put your emotions aside when you talk to the person concerned. Think carefully about what you want to get out of the conversation (e.g. is it just an apology to you, a wider apology, or a new/different course of action). Keep the conversation on track and focussed on the matter in hand. Talking is important, never try to deal with something like this via email.
- Be clear on your personal boundaries: If you are asked to lie/behave in a way that conflicts with your own values and beliefs then speak up as soon as you can. You could choose to adopt the ‘I was just following orders’ approach if you like, but your soul will gradually be eaten away by the differences between your values and what the company is asking you to do.