The Truth About Lies

  Three times in as many days the topic of “lies in the workplace” came up in my work. So I realized that it is time for me to reflect deeper on meaning and relevance of workplace lies. And how the emotional energy and moral value we place on the act of lying actually diminishes, not enhances, the ability to create a healthy work environment.


There is a basic truth about lying that we, as humans, tend to disregard. And that is that all humans lie.


Why do we lie? There are 5 reasons:


  • To save face.
  • To shift blame.

    The Truth About Lies

  • To avoid confrontation.
  • To control a situation.
  • To spare another’s feelings.


And, the core motivation behind all these reasons is that we seek to avoid feelings of discomfort.


So, it seems to me the key to creating a trusting, healthy and respectful work environment is NOT to expect complete honesty. But quite the opposite. EXPECT that people will sometimes lie to avoid discomfort and then strive to create an environment where it is safe to be vulnerable and own up to our transgressions. Even to own up to a lie.


Imagine an environment where a deadline is missed and instead of a teammate shifting blame to someone else, that teammate says, “You know what, actually it was my fault. I didn’t get the draft to the proofreader on schedule. I dropped the ball.” We then have the opportunity to find strategies to remedy the situation moving forward. In other words, we can eliminate shame, embarrassment, anger and resentment by holding a safe space for people to be vulnerable enough to own their mistakes.


Or imagine a workplace where when someone doesn’t know how to do a task, instead of saying they do, faking it and doing a less than stellar job, they actually are able to say, “I don’t know how to do that but I’d sure like to try. Is there someone who can support me?” Imagine the growth and capacity building. As well as the opportunity for collaboration, mentoring and empowerment.


So the result of my reflection on workplace lies…(insert drum roll):


Creating a team value, norm or expectation that no one lies is counterproductive and frankly, unachievable. Instead focus on creating an emotionally safe environment where teammates have space to say, “You know, that last statement wasn’t true. I’m sorry” or “Actually, I was the one who made that mistake. I want to take responsibility”.  Creating and holding this kind of safe space reduces drama and tension while empowering your team to leap forward in productivity, innovation, creativity, collaboration and problem solving.


Contact Beth Wonson Consulting today to learn how to create an empowered team!