You’re really doing a good job. You have a big career ahead of you here. Your raise is in the works.
All these wonderful, workplace statements have one thing in common — they’re lies.
In today’s world, it’s difficult to tell truth from fiction. So many fantastical events are actually happening right before your eyes — yes, Snooki is pregnant — that it’s difficult to identify outright falsehoods when they’re happening right before your office door. (Assuming your supervisor has come through with her promise to give you an office door or for that matter, an office.)
If you believe that management is lying to you, you’re probably paranoid, and if you believe that, you’re probably crazy. I’m totally lying. Management really is out to get you. This is exactly why you need to cast an eyeball at Forbes.com, where you will find a nifty and necessary article by Carol Kinsey Goman, titled “12 Ways to Spot a Liar at Work.”
Goman definitely knows her way around a lie. She always knows her way around a liar. As she explains, “For the vast majority of individuals you work with, the act of lying triggers a heightened stress response. And these signs of stress and anxiety are obvious, if you know where to look.”
You can certainly look at your manager’s nose, since a rapidly expanding schnoz is a classic sign of a falsehood in progress. But with today’s advances in plastic surgery, even a tiny, button nose is not to be trusted.
Fortunately, what plastic surgery can obscure, psychiatry can reveal, so Goman turns to Daniel Langleben, a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania, whose research exposes the inner workings of the liar’s brain, a mixed-up, shook-up organ that “first has to stop itself from telling the truth and then create the deception, and then deal with the accompanying emotions of guilt, anxiety and the fear of being caught.”
One of the foundations of psychological lie detection is to study the potential liar in stress-free situations. This allows you to identify the body cues that begin to show when lies begin. It’s a technique often utilized by police interrogators, Gorman informs us, because they can start an interview with a “series of non-threatening questions.”
Unfortunately, at your workplace, every personal interaction leaves you drenched in stress, while the questions asked by your managers are always threatening. Still, studying your managers could establish a baseline of mild, constant lying, which should help you spot the physical cues that occur when someone is telling a whopper.
Cue No. 1 is a “fake smile,” but since no one in your office ever hears any good news, it is possible that every smile you see is fake. Cue No. 2 is “unusual response time.” As Goman writes, “the process of inhibiting the truth and creating a lie takes extra time.” This explains why no one has gotten back to you about the salary review you requested six years ago. Of curse, it’s also possible they just can’t stop laughing.
Cue No. 4 is the “under or over production of saliva.” I know this is a disappointment. You thought your supervisor was drooling because he finds you so darn attractive. /
Cue No. 5 is “pupil dilation.” The act of lying increases the amount of tension and concentration, which, in turn, increases the size of the liar’s pupils. Since your manager has the glowing red eyeballs of a zombie in heat, skip to cue No. 8 — “Face touching.”
“Mouth covering is another common gesture of people who are being untruthful,” Gorman explains, “as is covering the eyes.” These facial “tells” may explain why your manager turns to the wall when he talks to you or chooses to walk around the office with his head in a waste paper basket.
Cue No. 7 is my personal favorite, “foot movements.” When lying, “feet will fidget, shuffle and wind around each other or around the furniture. They will stretch and curl to relieve tension, or even kick out in a miniaturized attempt to run away.” This explains why your senior managers have been spotted doing the tango up and down mahogany row. They are trying to run away from their fibs, lies and falsehoods. Or they could just really, really like each other.
Of course, it is possible that no one at your company lies, and that everything that you are told by your managers is 100 percent true. And if you believe that, you’re the one who is lying — to yourself.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.