Dear Orna: Why does it seem that so many people lie at work? They lie about little things, big ideas, personal issues and work-related matters. How can an honest person cope?
~Signed: Tell Me Sweet Little Lies
Dear TELL ME SWEET LITTLE LIES: I'm not gonna lie to you. The truth is, we are all liars. The lying begins with the job interview and never stops. And because I want you to believe me, I'm going to quote some real statistics: A University of Massachusetts research study found that 81% of job interview candidates lie and extroverts are most likely to stretch the truth. In fact, participants in the study told more than two lies in a 15 minute interview!
Some Lies are OK . . . Others are Not!
There are different types of liars. Some people tend to embellish or exaggerate. Those are usually simply for the purpose of building their own egos. Although they certainly can be categorized as lies, these little fibs are pretty harmless. But the problem becomes a lot more destructive if a co-worker lies to cover a serious error or puts blame on someone else. Lies can damage a relationship and destroy a career.
Compulsive liers cannot help themselves. They lie out of habit and become used to lying as a way of coping with life. They even believe their own lies. But the most dangerous liers are manipulative. They use half-truths and made-up information to create a better outcome for themselves and don't care about how their words affect others. Those are the ones to watch out for.
Watch Out for Sinister Liers
Once you've figured out that the person you're dealing with is not only a liar but also has sinister intent, you should react quickly. You might hold back on sharing information you may otherwise share with a business colleague as they might use any extra insight against you. Simply provide as little fuel for their engine as possible. Say little and interact even less.
If you are aware of specific misinformation, you might plainly state the truth. This will show the liar you are not willing to play their game and push them back a little bit. And finally: document! Don't let a situation develop where it's your word against theirs. Liars can be very smooth and practiced in presenting a distorted reality to management.
Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!
Don't confront the liar directly. It probably won't be well received or help the situation. I suggest you approach the situation gingerly and try to find the reason behind the lie. Perhaps the person is simply too embarrassed to tell the truth or is trying too hard to justify their position.
Give others the benefit of the doubt . . . but keep your antenna up!