How Bias Makes Us Lie

Carol Kinsey Goman in her book The Truth About Lies in the Workplace claims we are all liars. She lists some of the reasons we fudge the truth at work:

• Get out of a meeting.
• Enhance our resumes.
• Avoid punishment
• Cover our ass.
• Protect other people.
• Preserve our reputation.

She suggests our proclivity to be biased acts as an enabler of lying.

For people in our in-group who look like us, talk like us and act like us, we tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. We may not be as honest as we should with people and things in our in-group since we do not want to hurt something or someone that is similar to us.

In-group bias leads us into vested interest bias. We assume that no one in our in-group would be untruthful to us. We trust them since they are special. We put them on a pedestal and assume they would never lead us astray. This is the reason courageous conversations with our families are so difficult.

For people in our out-group who do not look like us, talk like us and act like us, we see their differences as untruths because our experiences do not match their realities. No matter how credible their arguments may be, we will never trust their positions because they originate from an unfamiliar source.

Millennials experience this when they go up against lifers in the federal government. Traditionalist and Baby Boomers will win the day against a millennial because the federal workspace rewards experience and longevity and punishes newness, creativity and innovation. Millennials are seen as the out-group. The message they receive is you have to earn your stripes around here before we take you seriously.

Confirmation bias is our tendency to overvalue information that supports our own experiences.
For example:

• Lack of eye contact suggests we are hiding something.
• A soft handshake means that person cannot be trusted.
• Her arms are folded, she is hiding something.

Yet when people in our in-group do some of the above behaviors, we will give them a pass.

Lying is also a pervasive problem before people get into the workplace. Over 50% of candidates lie on their resumes according to Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics. 81% of people lie about themselves during a job interview says Brent Weiss and Robert Feldman from the University of Massachusetts.

Even former employees lie when they leave the workplace during exit interviews. We rarely provide truthful answers to exit interview questions because we want to maintain a good reputation with our former employer as we walk out the door.

I had a tribal elder once tell me that lying is the equivalent of stealing. When we lie in the workplace, we rip off the truth.

The next time someone lies to you, hold on to your wallet. It is one thing to be lied to; it is another thing to be broke in the process.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply