An estimated 40% of people lie on their résumés; a whopping 90% of people lie on their online dating profiles, and 30% of respondents to a 2011 survey admitted to even having lied about watching The Godfather.
Everybody lies – plain and simple. There’s no denying it. In fact, a 2002 study, led by University of Massachusetts psychologist Robert S. Fieldman, concluded that 60% of participants couldn’t go 10 minutes without lying at least once. You could insist on belonging to the remaining 40%, but that’s what the liars thought, too – until they watched a playback video of themselves and were shocked to discover just how much they had lied in a 10-minute conversation.
People often lie without even being aware they’re doing it, and they lie about little, unimportant things that they think will make them look better or more likeable. While it is often regarded as a dishonest and morally wrong practice, telling little white lies does have its benefits: it helps you avoid hurting someone’s feelings and avoid unnecessary conflict; it can boost your career success; and, most importantly, it can help you protect a child’s innocence when it comes to the existence of Santa Claus and the tooth fairy.
It’s true that we shouldn’t actively lie about everything to everyone we meet, especially in the workplace, but desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures. And it is then that it is ok to tell little white lies at work.
1. When You're Job Hunting
Firstly, never, ever tell your boss or colleagues, even if they’re “cool”, that you’re currently looking further afield for a new job. This could backfire on you, especially if it comes to the attention of the wrong person, as you could soon be out of a job without having already secured new employment to fall back on. You’re already planning to leave, so why should they keep you on any longer than they have to?
If you’ve taken the day off but were spotted by your boss a block away wearing a suit and then quizzed about it the next day, feel free to use any excuse necessary to keep your job search secret – perhaps you just bought a suit for a friend’s wedding and were so excited about it that you just had to wear it right away.
2. When You Want to Avoid an Unnecessary Meeting
Yay! Another pointless meeting about the distribution of office equipment, also known as office supplies! You’ve clearly got better and far more important things to attend to than boring and unnecessary meetings whose key points could instead be quickly compiled into an office-wide memo.
You can avoid such time-wasting meetings by lying about your agenda and saying that you have another meeting to attend, or you could simply “forget” about it.
3. When Your Boss Asks You about His Appearance
Think of this as when a wife asks her husband: “Does this dress make me look fat?” Even if it does, the correct answer is: “No, honey, you look beautiful”. And the same should be done when your boss is about to head into a very important meeting.
Unless the problem can be easily fixed (like he has something in his teeth) or it isn’t too embarrassing, just tell him he looks great. This is especially important if your boss is a little insecure about his appearance because pointing out any issues before a big meeting could lead to a poorly executed presentation. And this, in turn, could be potentially damaging to relationships with important clients or business associates as your boss’ attention will be focused on his desperate need for a makeover.
4. When You’re Protecting Coworkers
Did Jennifer make a booboo? Did Matt call in sick when he actually stayed home to nurse a hangover? You know nothing about it – even if you do and your informant was the person in question.
Don’t be a tattletale and inform your boss about any screw-ups your coworkers made, even he asks you. This obviously does not extend to helping cover up a crime, but you should pretend to know nothing about anything. Doing so will not only protect coworkers from unfair repercussions but it will also avoid branding yourself as the “office snitch” and, therefore, damaging your workplace relationships beyond repair. Plus, who knows when you’ll need Jennifer or Matt to cover up for you?
5. When You’ve Pulled a Sickie
A recent study found that 38% of US employees called in sick when they were, in fact, feeling as good as gold. And some of the excuses were just downright absurd: one employee claimed his grandmother had poisoned him with ham, and another said he broke his arm when reaching to grab a falling sandwich – oh, the bravery!
Hopefully, however, you’ve chosen to use a more normal and realistic excuse for calling in sick. And that’s extremely important, because if you admit to staying home to binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy, nurse a hangover, or run personal errands, you’ll be viewed as irresponsible and untrustworthy while you may also make everyone think that you regularly take days off when you have a clean bill of health. And that’s not all: you could also lose your job.
6. When You Overslept and Were Late for Work
Sorry I’m late. My alarm didn’t go off”. While this excuse may work once or twice when your alarm did go off, but you just went back to bed, it can quickly lead to career suicide. Repeat offenders will be viewed as disorganized and irresponsible, and they are not tolerated in any workplace environment as they are considered a waste of company time and resources.
While it does occasionally happen for one reason or another (and measures should be taken against recurrences), it is far better to lie about arriving late for work rather than admitting to oversleeping. This is because excuses like “I got stuck in traffic” or “The bus arrived 15 minutes late” make you appear to be a more active, dedicated, and determined employee.
Honesty is the best policy but some situations, like the ones mentioned above, require a little white lie.
Can you think of any other times when it’s okay to lie at work? Perhaps you found yourself in the same or in a similar situation as the ones listed here – what lies did you use to save your ass? Did you get away it? Share your experiences, and any tips and tricks you might have, with us in the comments section below!