“I can’t believe it! He lied to me!”
This from Wendy, a long-term (and much respected) coaching client, heatedly calling me in the middle of the day.
“Who lied to you?”
“Angus. For six-months he’s looked me straight in the eye during our one-on-ones, and in my review, and he blatantly lied to me. I could be sick right now!”
Here’s the backstory…
Over the course of several months Wendy and I had rigorously positioned her for her next promotion. Every step she took, every email and meeting, every project was strategically, methodically, and tactically approached with the end goal of her getting promoted.
She was overdue to be up leveled, and wanted this badly enough to do whatever it took. Not once did she let either of us down.
Back to my conversation with her…
Over the past year, Wendy had spoken to Angus about her career goal no less than six times, asking, “What do I need to do to get promoted?”
Each time he told her that he had her back and that he believed in her.
Angus wholeheartedly agreed that Wendy was, indeed, ready to move up. Each time she asked, he reminded her that there wasn’t any headcount in his org at this next level, nor did he think that a spot would open in the future.
His advice? Wendy would need to move to another org if she was committed to getting promoted.
So, what was the problem?
The afternoon Wendy called me she had inadvertently discovered that two men, both from outside her organization, had been promoted into the positions that she’d been told didn’t and wouldn’t exist.
More than being pissed, she was severely disappointed that her manager of five years not only didn’t tell her the truth, but he boldly lied to her; it wasn’t that there wasn’t a position, there wasn’t a position for her.
Has something like this ever happened to you at work? Crushing, isn’t it?!
Want some quick tips? At the bottom of this article you’ll find some
common scenarios with high impact responses that work at work.
THE TRUTH ABOUT LYING
People lie. You. Me. Everyone. All the time.
Per a 2002 study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, 60% of adults can’t have a ten-minute conversation without lying at least once. One can only imagine what happens in a day at the office!
People lie to you and they lie about you. There is virtually no way to stop it.
Given that, the best we can do is finely hone our ‘lying radar,’ and learn how to manage liars with the least amount of collateral damage. When lying occurs at work, which is often does, you need to be able to distinguish between when to manage the lie and when to let it go.
Keep reading, and I’ll tell you a few ways to make the distinction. But first let’s talk about….
WHY YOU LIT YOUR PANTS ON FIRE
Yea, yea, I know…. You don’t think of yourself as a liar. In fact, you detest liars– but keep reading because my casual research reveals there are three pretty darn interesting reasons we light our own pants on fire..
1. We want to look good.
“Hey Bob, I finished that report you requested, but wanted to send it through another edit to make sure it’s letter perfect for the presentation.”
Truth: “I totally forgot about it and need to stall for more time.”
2. We want to avoid looking bad.
“Hey Mary, I finished the report you requested, but accidentally left it at home.”
Truth: “I totally forgot about it and need to stall for more time.
3. We want to protect others from being hurt.
“Jim, I looked over your report: Before we turn it in for the presentation I want you to take another look; maybe have another set of eyes on it.”
Truth: The report is simply awful, bad, horrible and unacceptable. I know you said you worked really hard on it so I don’t want to come right out and tell you that. Instead I’ll suggest you get some more eyes on it, hoping someone else will tell you or they’ll fix it themselves.
Not incidentally, the ‘why’ we use to excuse our lying is, in fact, just another lie, but in these instances we lie to ourselves. The excuse allows us to rationalize why it’s okay to show up in the world less than the high impact, empowered, and transformative leaders we aspire to be.
GENDER & LYING
There’s conflicting research on how often women lie compared with men (and vice versa). Some studies indicate that the number of lies are the same, while other studies conclude that men lie twice as often as women. Go figure!
According to the research of University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert S. Feldman, “Women were more likely to lie to make the person they were talking to feel good, while men lied most often to make themselves look better.”
IS IT A LIE?
Some things are subjective and, therefore, open to interpretation. Some things are not.
You are entitled to your opinion, judgment, and commentary, unfettered.
Since these things are subjective, it doesn’t matter if anyone agrees with you or not. If someone agrees with your opinion, then that’s nice. However, if someone disagrees with your opinion, neither of you are ‘wrong’.
It’s an entirely different story when it comes to facts—things that are objective, verifiable, provable and that actually exist.
If, for instance, you claim you made a conference call at 11:02 am ET, it can be proved whether you did or not. Time is objective.
Whether the meeting went well or not is, however, subjective; it’s open to your interpretation of what ‘well’ means.
Any attempt to blur the lines between fact and fiction is manipulative at best, and lying at its worst.
Wendy’s manager made it clear that there wasn’t any place in which she could move up. He told her this directly, so it’s not as if she guessed, assumed, inferred or wondered. The words came out of his mouth. Multiple times. It was a lie by commission and it cost Angus his relationship with Wendy and, further down the road, his reputation.
THE TWO FLAVORS OF LIES
There are two categories of lies, which is defined on Dictionary.com as false statements made with the deliberate intent to deceive.
Saying something you know to be false.
“You never told me that report was due today.”
Truth: You recall seeing the email in your inbox.
Deliberately withholding pertinent information, with the intention of misleading someone, creating bias toward a particular decision or engendering misconceptions.
“I never lied to her about my affair- she never asked me!”
WE LIE ABOUT LYING
“He walked it back”
“That’s a falsehood”
“She misrepresented herself in the meeting”
“He misstated the facts”
These are all indirect ways of skirting the issue that someone lied, or that this person is a liar.
What’s a bit bizarre is that on the one hand someone lies to our face and, on the other, we’re reluctant to directly call them out on it so we inauthentically attempt to ‘soften’ the impact of their lies with more deceitful language. Yea, we really do this.
Call lying whatever you will but….
THE IMPACT OF THOSE ALTERNATIVE FACTS
Lies are seldom as innocuous as we tell ourselves they are, while we’re lying.
Lies have a distinct, and often indelible, impact. Seldom is it a good one.
Is lying ever a ‘good’ thing? The only person who can answer that is you.
Here’s a few questions you can ask yourself prior to speaking that lie in your head:
• What will be the impact of telling this lie?
• How will my reputation be impacted by this lie?
• If this lie were printed in the company newsletter, or called out at the national sales meeting, how would I feel?
• Would it have been worth it?
ALTERNATE FACTS AT WORK
Your work relationships are yours, and yours alone to manage.
Relationships are hard. They challenge us to be our best and our worst. That may be especially true at work, where the stakes are very high. Relationships are also messy; they mirror back our values, integrity and authenticity. Or lack thereof.
The minute you get caught massaging the facts for your benefit, your trust factor with others will plummet. Regaining trust is one of the most difficult things we can do. Impossible? No. Nearly impossible? Yes.
If trust is the foundation of relationships, what happens to relationships based on convenient truths? They crumble in the face of chaos, confusion and crisis.
Your first instinct may be to feel insulted. You might think to yourself, “How stupid does he think I am!” or “Doesn’t she trust me?”
REMEMBER THIS: Someone’s lies have nothing to do with you.
(You, on the other hand, are totally accountable for the lies you tell. All of them—big or small—by commission or omission.)
Not trusting someone’s word doesn’t make you a bad person, cynical or untrustworthy yourself. It just means that you’re more committed to being personally powerful, than you are to being liked by everyone.
WORDS MATTER- USE HIGH IMPACT ONES
High impact words: The ones we use when we live powerfully, knowing that we can handle anything that comes along. It’s the language of people who are committed to being in contribution to their company and colleagues.
Low Impact Words: We use these words when we feel disempowered; when we act like victims, when we get angry instead of strategic, and when we react instead of becoming curious.
Here are a four scenarios that illustrate the impact of your words; think of them as a template or script.
Co-worker says: Would you forward that report to me today?
You think: Shit! I totally forgot about the report.
High Impact Response: 1. In hindsight, I should have reached out to you earlier with an update. Will it work for you if I get that to you tomorrow morning by 10:00 am? 2. Bob, I am so sorry, I totally forgot about the report. Will it work for you if I get that to you tomorrow morning by 10:00 am?
Co-worker says: Wasn’t David’s slide presentation this morning fantastic?
You think: What?! What?! That presentation was MINE.
High Impact Response: 1. Actually, Sue, I’m the one who put together that entire presentation and, yes, David did a fantastic job presenting it. 2. I’m glad you thought so; next time I’m going to need to put my name on the deck- I was remiss in not doing so.
Co-worker says: What do you think about the new vetting process for new hires?
You think: Darn! I knew I should have made time to re-read that email when it came in two weeks ago.
High Impact Response: 1. It’s hard to admit this, but I overlooked it in my inbox. I’ll review it right away, and let’s plan to discuss it later this week, when you have time. 2. I had so many burning priorities this week, that I put it on the bottom of my list. I’ll take a thorough look at it on Thursday and get back to you immediately. Does that work?
Co-worker says: There’s a rumor going around that you blew the sales meeting, the client walked out and you lost the $5M contract?
You think: WTF? Are you kidding? Who’s spreading that lie, and why are they setting me up?
High Impact Response: 1. It disappoints me that someone would talk about me and my business without checking in with me to verify the facts. There is no truth to that rumor and, in fact, here’s what happened…. 2. Really? That’s pretty interesting given that the meeting was postponed till next week. Next time someone has something to say about me, would you be willing to ask them to just come to me to discuss it?
1. Trust yourself.
You are a bigger person and more powerful than any lie you can tell. You don’t need to lie, even though your ego loves to be inflated. You’re already good. You’re already enough. You’re already smart. You have nothing to prove.
2. Trust your intuition: Your intuitive intelligence is probably your most unrecognized, underdeveloped and underutilized faculty. If your gut (read: intuition, inner wisdom, senses) tells you someone is being less than truthful with you, assume that’s true and do more fact checking.
3. Any problem that can be resolved with a lie, could better be resolved by telling it like it really is.
If you lie: Correct it immediately, no matter the size of the ‘fib’.
Say this: “Bob, I was replaying the conversation we had this morning, and something glaring popped up at me. I don’t know where my head was, but I said xyz when, in fact abc is true. I just wanted you to know.”
You’ll sleep better at night. Promise.
Has anyone ever started a rumor about you at work? How did you handle it? Was it resolved? Tell us about a time you may have ‘slipped with the details’, and how you corrected it? I want to hear from you.
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