You know who you are.
You tell us you will get it done – and you don’t.
You tell us you got it done – and you didn’t.
You tell us where you will be – and you are not.
You tell us you understand the situation and are prepared – and you haven’t given it a thought.
You tell us you used airline miles, when you actually put it on the company credit card.
You say you will be back to relieve someone else on their shift, but somehow traffic delayed you – again.
First you are informally demoted when someone else has to be brought in to do the mission critical portion of your job. Then, you are angry and irritable about feeling “underutilized,” so you lose your job. You have a tower of accusations or excuses. To us, your family and friends, your defenses actually are credible the first and second time. After all, there really are impossible jobs with terrible bosses, and good people get fired. But, the baseball rule (three strikes and you’re found out) solves the puzzle of what you say happened versus what really happened.
Three of the best liars I know are able to look me straight in the eye and lie without blinking. They’re also performance artists: they cry real easily or get angry when they’re called out. They wonder aloud why no one trusts them. How could their character be so impugned? Why do we keep reminding them of what needs to be done? Why do we keep seeking assurances that it’s been done?
When lying is part of your personal brand, part of how you cope or how you roll, you are eventually exposed and everyone around you is exhausted from working with you – or accommodating you.
The path of your destruction: the missed deadlines, the thrown together projects, and the loss of our time, money and opportunity hang like a shroud around you. The anxiety about what will be done, what will not be done, what will be half done and what will be undone but lay undiscovered for months so destroys our relationship with you, that any other amazing contribution you make has no appreciable value.
Lying is so stupid and debilitating to your career, that it’s most shocking when a smart, confident and ambitious person does it. It’s stupid because you lose all credibility, trust, respect and regard from the rest of us. No matter what other qualities you have, being a liar defines you.
Whether you lie reliably (about pretty much everything) or intermittently (which really destabilizes our relationship with you), just quit it. Cold turkey. People quit smoking, drinking, overeating, biting their nails, creating clutter, and a whole host of other self-destructive habits in service of self-actualization.
Consider that lying is a career-ending pattern for you. It’s disrespectful and disruptive to society – even if that society is just your workplace.
If you know me, you know I am Dr. Seuss’ Heloise the elephant. “I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant’s true 100%.”
And I recognize that no one on earth is able to perform 100% on any given day. I suffer from making the same mistakes and experiencing the accidents of life just like everyone else. So, this isn’t a diatribe about your computer really crashing, a family member really falling ill or a sudden detour sign taking you off route.
It’s about the truth and our trust.
Let sleeping dogs lie. You keep your word.
Note to other elephants: Consider sharing this post by email with the people who lie to you. Subject line: “Can you believe this?”
Nance Rosen is the author of Speak Up! & Succeed. She speaks to business audiences around the world and is a resource for press, including print, broadcast and online journalists and bloggers covering social media and careers. Read more at NanceRosenBlog. Twitter name: nancerosen.