How to Spot Whether your Boss is Lying

You trust your boss, and you don’t want to believe that he would tell a lie to your face. However, in an effort to protect himself, he may stoop to a new level. If you feel that your boss is holding back or not being truthful with you, here are seven ways to detect a lie.

#1 Listen to how he expresses himself

Some people have mastered the art of lying, but even some of the best liars make a few mistakes. For example, some professional interrogators notice that people typically use contractions when telling the truth. On the other hand, we’re more likely to avoid contractions when telling a lie. So, if your boss typically uses words like “doesn’t,” “isn’t" or “can’t," but starts explaining himself with words like “does not” or “did not,” he might be hiding the truth.

#2  How does he word his emails?

Interestingly, your boss might be telling a lie if he uses third person in emails or text messages. According to Jeffrey Hancock, associate Professor of Communications at Cornell University, a boss who lies will use the words “I” and “me” less times than someone telling the truth. They “speak about themselves in the third person or even truncate their language — anything to give themselves psychological distance from the lie.”

#3  Unusual body language, energy level or demeanor

If your boss is normally calm when you ask a question, but you notice a shift in his demeanor on this particular occasion — perhaps he’s more energetic or animated than usual — this can be a sign of lying. This can also be true for a person who’s usually energetic, but displays body language that’s out of character. Maybe he’s more reserved or quiet when you ask a question. If you know your employer’s baseline behavior, it’ll be easier to detect shifts in his speech or body. Also, people who lie may avoid eye contact, touch their face or nose, or clear their throat more than normal. 

#4  Answering a question with a question

If your boss plans on lying, he may dodge a question. When lying, most people need a few seconds to think of the best way to word the lie — selective wording is important. And if your boss can’t think of a response fast enough, he may answer your question with a question to buy himself some time.

#5  Look for a fake smile

Study your employer’s smile to spot whether he is lying to you. “A real smile crinkles the corners of the eyes and lights up the entire face,” says Carol Kinsey Gomen, a management expert and author of The Truth about Lies in the Workplace. A frozen or fake smile – which may indicate a lie – only involves the mouth.

#6  Your boss is too specific

If you approach your boss about a situation that’s been bothering you, he may deny any wrongdoing and explain his actions. Sometimes, it’s difficult to determine whether a person is being truthful. While listening to your boss explaining himself, you shouldn’t only watch for contractions, you should also take note of how specific your boss explains details. People who lie, carefully word their sentences and include more details than people who are truthful. For example, a person telling the truth might say:

  • I didn’t speak to her last week, or
  • I never told you to send the report

On the other hand, if your boss is lying, he may say something like:

  • I did not speak to her about the report last Friday morning in my office, or
  • I never told you to send the report to me last Thursday through email

Suspecting that your boss is lying can strain your working relationship. But if you identify a tendency, you can take steps to protect yourself and cover your tracks

photo credit: Flickr