The Requirement to Lie
There is some topsy-turvyness about lying and work. As I’ve said previously, the benefits of the lie are not to be sneezed at. If you balance the seriousness of the lie and the possible downsides of the truth, I’m not surprised if you might opt for the lie.
In this post, I’m not talking about whether you should lie but how it affects your career prospects.
You’re golden if you do
In the previous situation, your boss was in a pickle and you got her out of it. You took one for the team by lying about the projection in order to secure the second half money. You saved the project as well as everybody’s jobs, including hers and yours. She sees you as a team player.
So, curiously, you’re considered more trustworthy because your boss knows she can rely on you to lie when the chips are down. This is loyalty and loyalty is promotable.
You’re dog meat if you don’t
Similarly, if you don’t lie, you’re less trusted. Who knows what you might do in a similar situation? You might freakishly march to your own tune rather than the company’s (or at least your boss’). You might tell the truth to people your boss particularly wants to keep in the dark. Like her boss or customers or even colleagues.
Because she can’t be sure that you’ll lie on demand, she won’t see you as loyal. And non-loyal people are not supported for promotion. Transfer maybe, but not promotion.
A word again about the word ‘lying’
As I’ve mentioned before, some might consider my use of the word ‘lying’ strong. It might be playing up the potential, soft pedaling the downsides, coloring, massaging, dressing up, whatever. But I use ‘lying’ when you are doing/saying something which is in opposition to what you really feel or believe. I know it’s a harsh term but it’s the only one which seems to cover all the situations.
See what I mean by topsy-turvy?
This is in opposition to everything we think we know about lying and its consequences. Its polar opposite in fact. You can be rewarded if you lie and punished if you don’t.
Of course this happens outside work also. A friend might ask you to get him out of a scrape by lying. And similar consequences would ensue. If you do, you’re a loyal friend. If you don’t, it might destroy the friendship.
However, the difference between personal and work is significant, I think. In your personal life, being asked to lie can generate some soul-searching as to whether this fits with your values. You may lie but at least the decision is conscious.
At work, I think the requirement to lie is so pervasive that it is hardly noticed. For example, if you’re a manager or team lead, even if you disagree vehemently with your boss, you have to be a good soldier and sell it to the troops. Not doing so would be considered by the boss as a betrayal. Doing so is just the expected modus operandi.
As I’ve said before, it’s not whether you do or don’t lie. It’s about making a conscious decision whether this time you let the undercurrent pull you along or you won’t.