Workplace deception can lead to stress

Workplace deception wearing you down?

Turning on your “fake news” filter

Workplace deception has lasting effects on career prospects, health and your psyche. In the fake news era, it’s easy for deceptive people to mislead us. The truth is, the sheer volume of deceptive tactics to sway our judgement can overwhelm our psyche.

From what I’m seeing, collectively our base level of anxiety is running high. Everyone is tuning into the media to determine what’s happening. The problem is, the media is half the problem. Each week I have conversations with people who are switching off from the news or their social media feeds. I’m concerned we are blunting our own critical faculties.

I see the need to improve skills to determine what is the truth from our boss, peers, and the media.

Workplace deception is damaging

Workplace deception is isolating
Workplace deception is isolating

In the professional realm, workplace deception can damage your psyche, your career, and is just plain bad for business.

Despite this, workplace deception is only on the increase. According to research from Coventry University in the United Kingdom last year, we are in an age of the “‘normalisation of corruption’ and the ‘normalisation of lying.’” Their research examined the way lying becomes woven into the fabric of specific workplace and occupational cultures.

Being able to discern when an employee, colleague or client is not telling the truth is essential.

Getting a handle on the truth

We know that high levels of ambiguity lead to high levels of anxiety and stress. A seminar client wished she had learned lie detection skills earlier. She’d left a high-level job after experiencing a manager who appeared supportive but was secretly undermining her.

This manager’s behaviour created peer level resentment and affected her direct reports. She didn’t detect this behaviour for three months before working out why her team’s performance was so poor.

Eventually, she cottoned on and made a complaint. The CEO fired the manager shortly afterwards, but not before he had damaged the business irreparably.

This illustrates the cost of deception and its effect on business. However, it pales in comparison to the erosion of trust when workplace deception is condoned, tolerated or ignored.

It is expensive and damaging for the organisation, but it is especially devastating for teams trying to foster a collaborative environment.

Trusting your gut instincts

As work becomes more impersonal, the need for sociability and positive relationships becomes even more important.

Collegiality is good for the soul but also has business benefits. To have a fair society, and indeed fair working environments, we need to be better judges of each other.

Ecologist and author Jared Diamond says that society’s need for cohesiveness has only developed in the last 7,500 years, which meant “people had to learn, for the first time in history, how to encounter strangers regularly without attempting to kill them”.

Hence, it is wise to try to understand the role that others play and use it to your advantage.

Identifying workplace deception can take practice
Identifying workplace deception can take practice

Learning and understanding workplace deception

We know that about 15-20% of the population has a ‘benign outlook’. This means their first inclination is to believe what people contrary to evidence. In other words, they don’t pick up on lies and liars easily.

At the other end of the spectrum, a similar percentage will be immediately cynical or disbelieving even of the truth. They can also misinterpret signs and see deception where it isn’t there.

My workshops are designed to develop a healthy ‘professional yet balanced’ level of skepticism in people.

This means, not taking things at face value, and verifying or getting corroboration of what you believe might be happening.

It’s about getting people to ask the right follow up questions to statements of fact. I also teach attendees to observe and assess demeanour and tone of voice.

Reading people can also improve team bonding

I recently had a CFO of a large government agency engage me to facilitate a Team Optimisation workshop with his team.

The team was completely new. He had  12 new staff including 3 contractors. They needed to navigate and manage internal client relationships better and bond as a team.

Another strong motivator for the CFO was to open up a little to his team and show appropriate vulnerability so that they got a sense of how to work with him.

He was spot on in his thinking. Studies show that ‘managed disclosure’ is a good way to build closer relationships in a workplace setting. By disclosing appropriately the CFO was able to foster greater trust from his new team.

The solution

The team did a profiling exercise to understand of each other and how they would gel as a team. I found it refreshing, as functional teams are often overlooked for interpersonal training courses.

The response was very favourable. The team has increased understanding of comparative styles and strengths of their colleagues. They have also improved internal team relationships.

It makes sense that if you understand someone’s real strengths and blind spots you can work more effectively and make allowances.

The science tells us that understanding and being understood increases quality of cooperation, and is good for business.

Bringing it back to reality

Take the time to go slowly, and observe
Take the time to go slowly, and observe

So taking a moment to check back where we started. What is happening on a global scale can provoke anxiety. So take a moment to breathe and check in with yourself. Determine whether you are exercising your own filters. Or are you finding it easier to believe anything?

Cutting through the mixed messages that we get from almost every quarter in our lives is difficult. There is a greater need to have well-developed interpersonal antennae to assess and determine what is the truth.

What do you think?



If you are an individual who is interested in learning more, sign up to my wait list to be notified on my next public course on Developing Deception Detection Skills. If you are a manager looking for someone to develop a tailored bonding session for your team, contact me for a quote for an in-house private session.

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