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When is it OK to lie at work?

Scott Berkun, who writes a blog about management, has generated some interesting discussion on a controversial topic: lying in the workplace.


His post, which was inspired by a show about white lies on NPR Seattle, asks whether it is ever justifiable to lie about issues ranging from true motivations to the quality of an employee's performance. As any manager knows, there is a fine line between motivational feedback and exaggerated praise that can backfire by unjustifably inflating a worker's performance.

Blog community response:

"Obviously, you have to be real about expectations, work schedules, etc. But how do you figure out how to be honest with people about what you really think of their ideas, their work performance, or how that huge project is really coming along?"

"I think there are rare cases where lying is something that is in one's own interest--I think I would reserve that for situations of life or death. That being said, in business it often feels that urgent, but rarely really is."
--Danielle Clark on Berkun blog

"Lying is a form of manipulation. It stems from our desire to exert influence over our surroundings. We lie when it is to our advantage to do so--to cover things up, to protect our reputation, to get something we want, to hurt people, to make us look better, etc. There are plenty of specific reasons people lie, but they all have to do with one thing: control."
--All You Need to Know