The first lie I told at work
From the other end of the phone I heard my boss asking, “Have you completed that project I asked for?”
Truth is I hadn’t started it. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to look incompetent. So I lied.
I can still hear that dirty lie slipping into the phone. I lied because I knew I could complete the task in short order. I protected my reputation with deceit. Sounds stupid doesn’t it?
As the phone hit it’s cradle, I knew I’d acted foolishly. I knew she could walk into my office at any moment and ask for the project I said I’d completed but hadn’t.
Even though the task was completed without incident, I vowed I would never tell another lie at work.
Always tell the truth. There’s comfort and confidence in settling that question once and for all.
Does speaking the truth mean saying the worst?
For example, the boss calls asking if you’ve completed the project that, in truth, you haven’t started.
You can lie and say, “Yes.”
You can say, “I haven’t started it.”
You can say, “I’ll have it to you by 2:00.”
What’s your response? Why?
Lying at Work (Includes 5 ways Bosses Can Get to the Truth)
12 True Behaviors that Expose Liars
I really enjoyed your questions at the end of this post. From my perspective, you should answer the questions asked truthfully and that answer was no. If you wanted to add that you would have it by 2 pm if in fact that is what you would do then that comment is also appropriate. I do not think a “confession” was necessary going by the information the question you posted as asked. Nevertheless, context is crucial of the question is crucial in determining the appropriate response. Keep us thinking!!
So you’ve added a fourth option. “No, I’ll have it by 2:00”
That’s one of the things I struggled with (to approach this from the other side) as a supervisor (I’m not currently supervising). How do you “track” on your subordinates’ projects without micromanaging? Without sounding mistrustful? It seems like in a perfect world (ha ha ha) if the supervisor were balancing communications with staff well, he/she would be providing enough “checking in” opportunities that it shouldn’t be a surprise that a project hasn’t been started close to the due date/time. I guess liars will lie no matter what, but if a trusting relationship is established it makes it easier for the staff people to say, “I have encountered a problem starting and I need to let you know and/or I need advice.”
Your comment makes me think about the importance of progress reports. Saying, “Get back to me by noon tomorrow to let me know how it is going” isn’t micro managing.
Thanks for stopping in…
I have wondered about this often.
The conclusion I have reached for my personal style is that it is helpful to set up a proactive tracking system. Such as:
-Email updates once a week
-Verbal updates at weekly meeting
-Status report template once a month
It’s less intrusive and puts empowerment/accountability on the one doing the work.
I think asking “how is this going” CAN break down trust, and it does put pressure on people who haven’t yet developed that self-confidence so they feel a need to lie.
Welcome to Leadership Freak. I’m delighted you left your first comment. You’ve laid out a great feedback plan. I think the best part is responsibility lies mostly with your direct reports.
This is even better than the anticipated post on “Power.” Today’s post really punched me in the stomach. I don’t lie at work (at least not about my progress on projects) but I sure have bad memories of doing it in school. I remember telling a teacher, “I’m almost finished with my essay – I just need one more day.” Translation: I haven’t started yet.
That’s no way to live. Too much stress. Now I still get behind, but I just say so (at work or in school – I’m doing both). I try not to be flippant about it because obviously the person asking thinks it’s important. I just say, “Yeah, I’m sorry, I’m really behind right now (or swamped, or a-motivated, or distracted, or whatever) and I really need to focus on getting that done.” Then I give an estimated completion date/time (as you suggested).
By the way, I do tell little white lies at work, like, “No, I don’t mind working late. It’s not a problem,” or “Sure, I’ll take on this project that I find intimidating. I don’t mind at all.” To me, these “white lies” are really just my way of determining to have a good attitude, and I think that’s appropriate.
Thanks for the good word. It always feels good when someone says something good.
Reading your comment made me think about the role of personal confidence plays in truth telling. Low confidence = needing to lie to protect. High confidence = not needing to lie.
I appreciate that truth telling shouldn’t be disrespectful. We shouldn’t say, “I didn’t get it done and thats just tough.”
Thanks for contributing to this conversation. And thats not a white lie. 🙂
I am a young entrepreneur beginning my second startup – I enjoy reading your posts and I look forward to continuing a conversation with you. I began blogging recently and, if you’re interested, I am at http://www.sanjeesingla.com. I have led teams of people and I was intrigued by this idea of managing priorities and procrastination within teams.
The problem that causes these breakdowns is often a lack of articulated priorities for the team member. I always make it perfectly clear to those I work with what are their #1, #2, #3 priorities, and so on (each clearly associated with a timeline). This allows smart people to manage themselves over a longer time frame, giving them autonomy and ownership over their work. Where one is working with capable people, this framework can lead to happier and more productive teams.
Welcome to Leadership Freak. Thank you for leaving your first comment. I hope you’ll keep coming back. Thanks also for you kind words.
You’ve left us some clear insight on the importance of priorities. Your comment made me think about the importance of managers getting out of the way. Your comment adds to that idea.
For the good of the community,