HR Strange But True!
April 26, 2007

While we may not often think about it, workplaces are rife with lies and deception. How many employees do you know who pretend to do more work than they really do? Or co-workers who flatter obnoxious clients and supervisors, play solitaire on computers, or even call in sick to take a day off?

And that's not necessarily a bad thing, according to David Shulman's new book, "From Hire to Liar: The Role of Deception in the Workplace."

Lies and deceit are not limited to a few rogue employees or to supposed "bad-apple" corporations such as Enron. Virtually all workplaces require "formal and informal deceptive impression management because there are always clients to please, rules to subvert, difficult tasks to perform, work to shirk, and job advancement to seek," Shulman writes.

"Everyone lies on the job," Shulman told the New York Post. "From the secretary on up to the highest executive, lying and deceiving is absolutely necessary to get your work done."

"People assume deception is automatically counterproductive," he said. "I'm just saying deception is part of the everyday fabric of the workplace, and in some ways leads to increased productivity."

The introduction to the book is subtitled, "Is Dishonesty the Real Policy?" and other chapter titles include:

  • Building Believable Lies
  • Justifying Work-Related Deceptions
  • The Shadow World of Unofficial Deception
  • Deception as Social Currency
  • Goofing Off and Getting Along
  • The Everyday Ethics of Workplace Lies
  • Appreciating Deception in Thinking about Organizations
Shulman said that his "scholarly goal" was to "describe the deceptions that people encounter and perpetrate at their jobs and connect them to theoretical explanations of how people work inside organizations."


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