COMPANY CULTURE / JUL. 04, 2015
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5 Sure Fire Ways to Sniff Out a Liar

You might trust that your family and friends won’t lie to you - but you might not extend this trust to your coworkers or employees. Whether it’s a big or a small untruth, lying in the workplace is common. Some people call in sick when they’re not really ill, and others fudge the truth to so that they won’t be held responsible for a mistake. 

See Also: More Than Half of Resumes Contain Lies

Unfortunately, sniffing out lying in the workplace can be tricky. Some people stumble over their words, sweat profusely and can’t get their stories straight, which are dead giveaways that they’re not being 100% honest. Others, however, have mastered the skill of lying, so it’s harder to discern whether these people are being truthful. But if you pay attention, you might notice subtle, subconscious behaviors that make it easier to sniff out a liar among your coworkers or employees.

1. You Can't Get a Straight Answer

It doesn’t matter if you’re interviewing someone for a job, or questioning a coworker about a missing document, if the person skirts around the question or answers your question with a question, he’s holding back information. This is also a tactic many job applicants use when they don’t want to directly answer a question, such as why they left their former company. For example, you might ask a job applicant, "Did you leave your last job on good terms? Rather than give a yes or no answer, he or she might say, "I left my job to find a more challenging, fulfilling opportunity." This is a good response, but it didn’t answer your question. 

If a person is honest, he’ll usually respond to a question quickly and give a direct answer. When someone repeats a question back to you before responding, there’s a good chance he’s preparing to lie and he’s stalling to buy himself time to think of an excuse. For example, if you ask your coworker if they removed something off your desk, and they responds with the question, ‘did I take something off your desk?’ they might be about to lie.

2. Use Baited Questions

Sometimes, you have to use trickery in order to sniff out a liar in the workplace. Using baited questions is one way to discern whether an employee is being 100% truthful with you. Let’s say you’ve had a problem with theft in the office. Since everyone will deny stealing, you’ll need to ask clever questions to get a confession. 

When speaking with each employee individually, you might say, "I’m going to review the security footage this evening. Does this mean I won’t see you stealing these items?" Even if you don’t have a security camera in the office, you can use this as bait. An employee who’s innocent will confidently say no. But an employee who’s guilty will likely start making excuses for why they are seen on camera rummaging throw office supplies, files or desks.

3. Look for Stress Signals

Lying causes a physical response, even when the liar tries to remain calm. So if you ask an employee or coworker a question, and you notice his eye slightly twitching or jumping, or his breathing becoming shallower, they might be lying. Of course, this can also be a coincidence. The best way to gauge whether they’re lying is to switch to a different topic, and then bring up the former topic at a later time. If the person has the same physical response the second time you ask the question, he or she could be lying or holding back information. You can also use this trick to discern truthfulness when interviewing job applicants. Ask a question, and then repeat the question a few minutes later if you suspect deception.

4. Know Your Coworker's Baseline Behavior

Any out of character behavior might also be a sign that a coworker or employee is lying. Maybe your coworker always maintains good eye contact and speaks with a lot of gestures and movements. But when you ask a particular question, he’s noticeably more subdued and doesn’t look you in the eye. People tend to act differently when they’re lying, whether they want to or no. You may also notice your coworkers or employees using speech that’s out of character for them. For example, someone who normally speaks relaxed and uses slang around the office may all of a sudden speak more proper or formal, using expressions such as "did not" instead of "didn’t," or "would not" instead of "wouldn’t."

5. A Liar Fills in Missing Details About an Event

You can also sniff out a liar at work by paying close attention to the details a person provides when answering a question. For example, if you approach your employee about missing a sales meeting, you might ask whether he knew about the meeting. Instead of a simple no, he might say, "I did not know about a sales meeting at 2:00 PM." Since your question didn’t mention anything about the time, the fact that your employee brings up the time may indicate he was aware of the meeting. Likewise, if you ask a coworker if he removed a document from your office (without providing specific information about the document), yet he responds by saying, "I did not remove the sales report off your desk," the extra details in his response might indicate lying.

See Also: How to Spot Whether Your Boss is Lying

Unfortunately, we can’t look at someone’s nose and tell whether he or she is lying - that only works in storybooks. But if you pay attention to where he looks and how he or she places their hands, and how they talk, you might pick up on little changes that can indicate lying.

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