I Lied on the Report

May 30, 2016



I Lied on the Report

In the previous post, you lied on a report by projecting a six week cost overrun rather than the three months likely. This is so the executive committee will give you the second half money to get you back on track. You push the send button to give the report to your boss, Rhonda, to present to the committee.

What happens if you push the SEND button?

With your boss

It is as if Rhonda has been at her desk waiting because, in less than half an hour, you get, “Just read the report. Excellent. Thanks for the hard work.”

With your team

“Thanks for the work,” you say to Becky. “Rhonda’s really happy.” Becky doesn’t make eye contact. “Sure,” she says before she rushes past. You can just imagine her scuttling to her pal Lionel’s office to spill the beans.

Don’t they know I’m doing it for them? They’d be out on their ears except for me.

You toy with letting them know what you’ve done and why. But can you trust them not to spread it far and wide? If they do, the wrong person might hear and tank the whole thing. You shake your head. You can’t tell them.

Rhonda’s surprise move

A message from Rhonda. “Paul, you’ve done such a good job on the report, I want you to present it. Friday 2:00, 6th floor boardroom.” Something’s wrong. Rhonda had been thrilled that her VP, Trevor, had given her the chance to present this. What’s going on?

It hits you. Plausible deniability. If anything goes wrong, she’ll throw you under the bus.

You suddenly feel very alone.


And you are.

Sending the report has several unfortunate consequences. First, even if Becky figures out why you did it, in that funny way people have, even a good-cause lie makes you less trustworthy. So, you’ve probably damaged your credibility with your staff.

Even more importantly, you’ve lied. If the committee finds out, it’s firing for sure. But even if they don’t and release the second half money, you still lied.

It’s a good lie

Well, it is. You can recoup lost time and save jobs. In addition, you responded correctly to your boss’ implicit message to ‘fix’ things. You’ve come through in a crunch. A good team player and probably even promotable.

Not only is it a good lie, it’s a small one. Just a projection which, when all’s said and done, is a guess about the future. You just guessed on the low end rather than the high. Given the potential downside, perhaps the little lie is worthwhile.

A little niggle

I worry whether and to what extent this lie, even given all the good reasons, creates a path so that the road to the next is smoother. If the present lie is okay, how can the next be bad, if the situation is comparable? I worry that at some point the path gets so easy that you forget to pay attention. Then saying what’s expedient rather than true is as easy as falling off the proverbial log.

As with all undercurrents, it’s not whether one particular action is right or wrong. It’s whether you make the decision consciously and whether it’s adding to a pile that is getting too high.

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