Lies in the Workplace: They’re More Common Than You Might Think

by jindiola on February 7, 2013

Scott Martineau is Interested

(Interesting article with general considerations for your workplace) According to an article on the Bloomberg Businessweek website, statistics show that the average person lies at least twice a day, and they’re not likely to avoid lapsing into that behavior at work. On a somewhat positive note, researchers have found that the majority of workplace lies are intended to help safeguard the reputation of the person who’s telling the lie, and aren’t usually related tarnishing the company culture. In other words, people lie at work to make themselves look good, or look better, as the case may be.

Researchers have also found that people are more likely to tell a lie when they’re at work, as opposed to being at home. The prevalence of workplace liars means that you’ll probably have to work with a few during your career, and may find yourself tempted to fall into similar habits. Keep reading to learn a few ways to spot untruthfulness in your own place of business.

The Eye Contact Myth

We’ve all heard that habitual liars tend to avoid looking others in the eye, but some professionals say that’s not the case. Carol Kinsey Goman, a body language expert contributor at, says that liars might actually exaggerate the amount of eye contact they have with a person, as a way to prove that they’re being truthful.

Often, this is an unconscious behavior, so it’s best to have the advantage of observing a person over a prolonged period of time. This allows you to notice their baseline habits. Once you’ve learned those, it’ll be easier to spot when something is amiss, and you can evaluate several factors.

Look for Rehearsed Behaviors

When humans know that they might need to anticipate a confrontation or request from a coworker, they often spend hours or even days going over how they’ll respond. For example, if you catch wind that there’s a large promotion available in your department, it’s natural to start dreaming and scheming about how you’d react if it were offered to you.

While there’s nothing wrong with this technique, be careful not to let planning mechanisms outweigh genuine emotion. People who aren’t being entirely truthful may blurt out responses very quickly, a split second after a question has been posed to them. In many cases, this is because they’ve spent so much time rehearsing what to say that the reaction has nearly become automatic.

While this phenomenon in itself is not indicative of someone who is lying, the behavior can often go hand-in-hand with other less-than-genuine emotional responses such as fake smiles or flimsy promises of support.

Pick Up On Verbal Cues

Statistics have additionally noted that people who are lying often use fewer contractions when they speak, and also shift into a higher pitch. Like the other characteristics, both of these don’t prove that a person is lying, but could point to suspicious behavior, especially if those vocal features are uncharacteristic.

In closing, it’s important to not be overly reliant upon one specific sign. If you spend all your time looking for the characteristics of someone who’s lying, you’ll miss out on other important factors of the conversation.

Regardless, it seems that no workplace is immune to liars, and you may even find yourself tempted to be slightly untruthful at times. By becoming more in tune with your coworkers’ usual habits, you’ll be a more effective communicator without getting too wrapped up in trying to gauge whether or not someone is being wholly truthful.

Nicole Freeman is an avid business blogger covering all things workplace-related. Interested in furthering your business career? You may consider enrolling in an online mba program to broaden your skills and experience.

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