Updated January 12, 2023 l by Tara E.
Why do people lie at work? The reasons why people lie at work might leave you scratching your head, but the truth remains that people often lie for a core set of reasons. Whether they make sense to you or I do not matter. Close your eyes and picture the first time you heard someone lie to you, another co-worker, or even a boss in the workplace.
Do you remember your reaction? Did you interject the truth? Did you correct them? Did you later advise the intended recipient of the lie of the real truth? More than likely, you were initially stunned by the incident and remained quiet, unbelieving of what you might have just witnessed.
Why Do People Lie at Work?
Let’s face it; we have all told a lie at one point or another in the workplace. Big or small, a gray area or white lie, we have each encountered a moment in which we chose to lie –even if it was unintentional or for the perceived greater good.
However, when we witness others fabricate an untruth, it is simply mind-blowing. It can be an out-of-body experience, in which you find yourself trying to snatch your soul back into the core of your body. If you are one who is built on multiple layers of integrity, witnessing an untruth can leave you clutching your pearls or stroking your chin in absolute disbelief. The idea of anyone daring to falsely make a point will shake the core of your virtuous foundation. For others, witnessing the unraveling of an untruth may not be as shocking, but still lead them to raise a questioning eyebrow at the circumstance. So, why do people lie?
Experts have identified a variety of reasons we choose to lie. My favorite rationale associated with any of us telling a lie is related to a little factor known as ‘time.’ We simply don’t have time, to tell the truth. Therefore, it’s quicker to tell a lie simply. Imagine this, you see your co-worker first thing on Monday morning, and she says, ‘How was your weekend?’ In your head, you’re thinking, ‘My weekend was crap.’ Although your weekend might have been nothing but one disappointing moment after another, you do not have the time to expound on it because you’re running late. Most likely, your immediate response will be a simple statement of ‘It was good’ or ‘Fine’. In other words, a lie.
The following common reason people lie is for material advantage or personal gain. If we apply this philosophy to the workplace, we might find that people will lie for recognition, which might contribute to a pay raise or promotion or perhaps even job security. How many times have you suspected someone is lying simply to hang onto their job? Or you wonder, how is it possible to hire someone into a position that demonstrates little to no qualification for the role? Many people lie to get the gain they need in the workplace.
Another reason why people lie at work entails the desire to manipulate others’ perceptions or opinions. For example, people often tell lies in the workplace to gain favor with their boss or co-workers. Many want to look like experts or as if they are working harder than they are. At the end of the day, if one can manipulate the perception of their peers, boss, and co-worker, then they ultimately achieve the first goal, which is a material advantage. Sadly, research shows that the more lies people tell, the easier it is to tell more lies.
We have touched on materialistic gain, time, and manipulations. Still, another critical reason to point out as it relates to people failing to be truthful in the workplace is the triad of integrity, responsibility, and accountability. Unfortunately, many people lie to shake having any accountability for something not getting done. Now, some might label their lies as excuses or exaggerations of the truth, rationale, or reasons that something failed or was not complete in time. However, many excuses given by some individuals in the workplace are plain lies.
Weigh the Consequences of the Lies Before Taking Action
These are just a few reasons why people lie at work. So what can you do when the lies start flying, and they are not coming from your mouth? Take cover! No, but seriously, consider the impact of the lie on yourself and others. Remember, people lie for various reasons, and while some are harmless, others are not so harmless, and it may require you to either take action or, if you are the emitter of the lie, choose a more trustworthy path!