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9 May 2011

Why Employees Lie Even When the Truth is Better

A labor relations expert emailed me describing a trial in which an employee lied about a previous injury even when the truth would have helped her receive compensation. He wondered whether such lying was just something the employer had to accept.

First, I would broaden the context by asking: Why did the employee feel the need to push this to trial? She obviously had no confidence in her employer looking out for her. Yes, some employees game the system; some professionals even try to help. However, the fact remains that employers who have mediocre relationships with employees are going to experience more contention and dishonesty than those who have exemplary relationships.

In these situations, employees will lie even if the truth helps because 1) they don’t know that, or 2) even if they do know it, they don’t believe it. Once an employee refused to take documents to her doctor certifying a serious health condition because she didn’t believe her employer was trying to help.

Second, many employees just don’t believe the judicial process is there to help. To impress this on employers, I often ask whether they would tell someone like Stalin or Hitler the truth even if they assured them of fair treatment? Yes, an extreme view, but not so far from the true feelings of some employees.

Finally, we falsely assume that if people aren’t telling the truth then they are lying. In reality, they just have a different interpretation of the facts; and thus, they fully believe they are truthful.

Unfortunately, most employers feel their relationships with employees are better than they are. As a result, they need to look at situations like the above as professional and business failures. Exemplary employee relationships will minimize these situations; relationship building is often the best defense.

2 Responses

  1. This ties in with your previous posts about if someone has a belief, no amount of “facts” presented to them are going to change that belief. Many times people aren’t interested in changing their belief–they just WANT to believe that way, and aren’t interested in any fact to the contrary–both in business, and in life.

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