You probably spent your childhood being taught that lying is a sin, and it is true that it tends to be frowned upon in decent society. Or is it?
First off, you’re not a child anymore, and you don’t have to adhere to childhood mores. Second, lying is not quite as taboo as you might have once thought. It might be kind of taboo, but everybody does and lots of people have even admitted to lying on their CVs.
Studies have shown that people lie way more often than they’re even aware of – and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re bad people, either. In fact, a study published in Human Communication Research in 2013 found that the average person tells about two lies every single day. So, it can’t be all that bad, can it?
In the workplace, meanwhile, lying is something that’s not only necessary from time to time but can also get you ahead. From interactions with your boss to keeping coworkers at bay, you have all sorts of reasons to avoid the truth.
In case you’re short on ideas, here are just a few reasons why you might find yourself lying in the workplace – and how it can help you be more successful.
(And since you’re not a kid anymore, you won’t get sent to the corner for doing it…)
1. You Get to Keep Your Job
Say you’re on friendly terms with your boss, who one day just happens to ask you what you think of that new suit. You know it’s the frumpiest, ugliest, least-flattering suit you could have possibly imagined coming out of a tailor’s shop, but you’re not going to say that to your boss, are you? If you were perfectly honest with him, there’s a good chance that he won’t be your boss for very much longer. You don’t have to tell a complete lie and say that he looks wonderful and you can’t imagine him looking any better, but in this case, a white lie that glosses over the situation could definitely help you stay in good graces with the boss and hopefully keep you gainfully employed until you’re ready to move on.
2. You Keep Clients Happy
You have a client with a business model, a product, or a system that is so completely out of whack that she might as well pack up and shut her doors on the double. But telling her that isn’t necessarily going to help you move forward or get ahead, is it? In this situation, lying is definitely in order. Now’s not the time to elaborate upon all her shortcomings. Instead, you could begin to help her remedy each of her problems, one by one, and you’ll end up being the hero that saves her business.
3. You Make a Good, Lasting Impression
Like it or not, you have to work with other people when you’re employed at a place of business. Even when you have your own business, you can’t bag on your employees and tell them the truth about everything. In fact, you’ll even need to go further than that, and work toward building positive relationships with your coworkers. That might even mean you need to go out with them for a drink from time to time. You might not feel like going out for karaoke every weekend or spending your weeknights joining the local bowling team, but you can make an effort to make friends and do the occasional social activity with your coworkers.
The benefit: when you have good relations with your coworkers, you’ll tend to leave a favorable impression that can help you get more teamwork from your team, get you recommendations for future jobs, and just generally foster a positive impression of yourself.
4. You Keep Your Boss Off Your Back
Once in a while, your boss will ask you to do a task and you’ll completely forget about it. Other times, you’ll be so swamped with work that you won’t be able to give priority to some little thing that the boss wanted to add into your day. You’ll get to it eventually – just not now. In those situations, you’ll need to employ some of your best lying skills to keep your boss at bay. The last thing you want to do is tell him that you can’t handle the tasks that you’re given, as that’s going to make him doubt your abilities. So, instead, you’ll need to tell some whitish lies and say that you’re "working on it".
The ability to keep your boss at bay can help you learn to prioritize and to manage your tasks on a schedule that works well for you. The ability to do your work at your own pace can help you become successful – but only so long as you actually get that work done in a decent amount of time.
5. You're Better Able to Deal with Things
Ever had that one coworker – or friend – who seemed upbeat all the time, even when things were really, really bad? Or how about that person who never seems to have any sort of critique about the world? To them, everything is happy and wonderful all the time. That’s pretty annoying, right?
The truth is that studies have shown that depressed people tend to be more honest about their life situation than non-depressed people. In other words, your life might start to take on a very dark, stormy hue without the ability to lie about it from time to time. You don’t have to be the happy-go-lucky fool with your head stuck in the sand, but you can tell a few lies to keep things a bit more positive.
The obvious benefit here: you’re helping to keep things upbeat. In a world in which there are a lot of things to get down about, you need that from time to time.
6. You Get Along with Everyone
When it comes down to it, we lie at work because we’re trying to keep things running smoothly and keep people’s feelings in check. If you’re the type of person who’s always willing to tell people exactly how it is, some people may appreciate your honesty, but others will think you’re too blunt, rude, or that you’re just plain antisocial. You don’t want to establish that reputation, do you?
Whether you’re looking for a promotion, a new job, or just better working conditions with your current team of coworkers, being known as the antisocial a**hole is not the way to get there. On the flipside, you don’t want to be known as the yes-man who is never able to say no to anything – though that’s a different set of advice.
OK, so we’ve established that lying does have its place – but, of course, there’s always a limit. Little white lies that get you out of awkward situations with your bosses or coworkers are totally fair game. Lying on your resume about things like degrees or work experience, on the other hand, could yourself fired – or worse, blackballed from a specific industry. When in doubt, ask yourself whether the lie you’re thinking of telling is going to hurt anyone, whether it could get you fired, or whether it’s illegal. If the lie passes all of those tests, then it may be just one that’s worth telling. And even better, it could be a lie that will help you get ahead in the big wide world of work.
How has lying helped you succeed in your career? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below!