Why you should never need to know how to spot a liar

lyingA recent study developed by researchers from the Harvard Business School and the University of Wisconsin, delved deeply into the language of deception in order to determine when someone is deceiving by omission or flat-out lying. The underlying premise of this study seems to be that deception and/or lying are pervasive in many organizations, and therefore worthy of study. First of all, I believe that even posing this as a research topic is an incredibly negative, and potentially self-fulfilling, view of an organization’s culture and its relationships with employees. If you are worried about being deceived vs. lied to, you are already in such deep trouble that you better step back and take a hard look at yourself and your organization. Unfortunately, we have experienced corporate cultures where people felt like they had to be deceitful to survive. These are awful places to work where greed and selfishness are the norm. Using an artificial, classically psychological, experimental design (so not in actual business setting) the study found that the liars used more swear works, more third-person pronouns and spoke in more complex sentences. On average, though liars were trusted more than just the deceivers by omission, because the short sentences and relative silence created more suspicion. The authors suggest that these behaviors are warning signs that should prompt further investigation into your employees and your organization. Really? Is it good advice to warn leadership to be aware of whether or not people are deceivers of liars? Think of it this way, by having a researcher even pose this question, it directs attention to finding these dysfunctions and, surprise, you are more likely to find these problems. But, you can stop yourself. You should not have a culture where it is necessary to even consider spotting a liar. In sharp and conscious contrast, a purpose-driven culture creates trust where these types of negative constructs are non-existent. Make a commitment to having a purpose driven culture and reject this notion. This is not to say that all communication is completely open, but overt deception is extreme. In our own environment, we have spent and still do spend a lot of time aligning and reinforcing our purpose. We couple this with what we call “The rule of good intentions.” By this we mean that our operating assumption is that everyone wants to contribute to the communal success and that any breakdowns (and there are always breakdowns) are just the typical things that happen when humans work together. The hard part is; how you turn around a culture that is so dysfunctional as to have pervasive dishonesty? The answer is — it begins with leadership self-awareness and personal honesty. Now, assuming that the leadership actually wants something different, ask the hard personal questions, move to creating a compelling purpose and support people as they build mastery in achieving that purpose. Before you know it, you will have an organization that enables you to live in a positive trusting world.   Source: Harvard Business School http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/7234.html]]>

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