The Truth About Lies in the Workplace

The truth about lies in the workplace:  It’s not the lie that’s harmful

Research supports that lies in the workplace happen anywhere from 10 to 200 times a day! The Journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology found that only 40 percent of people can go 10 minutes without lying at least once. To make matters worse, those that did lie actually shared an average of three lies during that brief conversation.

Although, many lies are white lies, I challenge you to think about how many times you have fallen into this eye-opening statistic. Not only do lies harm organizational trust, it also comes with gut-wrenching price tag.  For example, in 2015, US spent almost a trillion dollars in corporate fraud alone.


Why is there so much lying in the workplace?  


Aside from harmless white lies that are often shared out of the sake of social grace and etiquette, the reasons can vary.  One common reason to lie in the workplace stems from our attempt to appear more amiable and competent to others.  We often don’t tell the whole truth in an attempt to fill in the gap between our reality and who we want to be portrayed as or what we wish we were.  

How do you know if someone is blatantly lying to you in the workplace (and not just telling an innocent white lie)?

There are many ways you can decipher the truth from lies, but one of the best ways is to listen with your eyes.  Non-truth telling people tend to avoid eye contact.  They look down when speaking and angle their body away from the person they’re speaking too.  Liars typically omit critical information, become fidgety or agitated when pressed for details and tend to touch their faces, especially their nose.

How do we know when a lies in the workplace is harmful?


Emotions can run high when we disagree with one another and that can actually be healthy.  It is when anger turns to contempt, that things turn harmful and toxic.  The sign of contempt is actually a micro expression in the field of body language.  When you see the sign of contempt, you have basically been dismissed by the person.  Contempt is associated with moral superiority.


The classic sign of contempt is marked by the mouth.  One lip corner is pulled up and in.  It’s the only asymmetrical expression, similar to what a smirk looks like. In the presence of contempt, a person’s body language or nonverbal communication will show this half-like smile, which may only last less than a half second or last for a few seconds.  

There are many ways you can decipher the truth from lies, but one of the best ways is to listen with your eyes. #HealthyWorkplace #Leadership Click To Tweet


Haggard and Isaacs, as well as other researchers, found that our faces often reveal hidden sentiments that are being intentionally concealed. Contempt is often considered the most powerful of the microexpressions. It means hatred or disdain. When we see contempt on someone else, it signals to our brain that the other person greatly dislikes what was said or what’s happening around them. It can also be perceived as an “I’m better than you” signal.  


Contempt isn’t always associated with a lie.  The sign of contempt can be exchanged during casual conversation and is one of the many reasons behind organizational distrust.  It is important to become aware of this sign in others and more importantly in ourselves.  It’s not always the swirling of lies in the workplace that is harmful, it is the amount of contempt in the workplace that is.        


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