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Survey uncovers the extent of Deception Across Sectors
Survey uncovers the extent of Deception Across Sectors

Ninety-two per cent of HR professionals think they are lied to every week.

According to an exclusive survey by People Management. (Claire Churchard – 27 March 2013). Though they admit 49.9% of HR professional lie so care is needed here! The article is the result of an online poll of 820 HR people, and concludes that:

“almost a third believed that they were being told more lies than two or three years ago, while staff in sectors such as travel and construction were flagged as the least trustworthy.

Survey responses suggest that people working in the travel and leisure sector are the most likely to tell a fib: 29.7 per cent said these professionals tell more than 11 lies a week. Employees in construction, and the energy and utilities sectors were not far behind in the deception stakes, notching up 27.5 and 26.7 per cent of the vote, respectively, for appearing to spout more than 11 lies a week.

Surprisingly, two sectors that are often believed to be averse to the truth bucked the expected trend. Only 23.6 per cent thought that banking sector workers told more than 11 porkies a week, while media staff were practically deemed paragons of virtue in comparison with only 15.2 per cent.

However, HR professionals believed themselves to be the most honest, with 41 per cent claiming they told no lies at all and 49.9 per cent reporting they only told between one and four lies a week”.

Cliff Lansley, MD of Paul Ekman International plc, states that “its a fact that everyone lies. The issue is around the motives behind the lies. Paul Ekman highlights the nine primary motives as:

1. To avoid being punished. The punishment may be for a misdeed or for an accidental mistake.
2. To obtain a reward not otherwise readily obtainable.
3. To protect another person from being punished.
4. To protect oneself from the threat of physical harm. This is different from being punished, for the threat of harm is not for a misdeed.
5. To win the admiration of others.
6. To get out of an awkward social situation. Examples are claiming to have a babysitter problem to get out of dull party, or ending a telephone conversation by saying there is someone at the door.
7. To avoid embarrassment.
8. To maintain privacy, without giving notification of the intention to maintain some
information as private.
9. To exercise power over others, by controlling the information the target has.

(updated from Ekman 1989 – Why Kids Lie)

Cliff adds that ” many lies are simply social lubricants – without judging these to be right or wrong – though many are destructive and have serious malintent”.

The PM report continues by arguing that the problem we have in many workplaces is that people are “driven by fear more than they are than by higher ideals. People are scared of the truth because we’re afraid of speaking up to someone who has power or authority over our life in the business”.

“We know that most of the corporate disasters we are facing are because people who knew what was going on were scared to speak up,” Roger Steare, leading ethicist and corporate philosopher at Cass Business School, told PM.

Organisations where bosses “lead through fear” create a lying culture, where everybody is afraid of the truth, termed ‘willful blindness’ in America, he warned.

Steare said leaders need to create an open working environment where people feel safe to speak up and challenge something they believe is wrong.

“Research outlined in the report ‘Firms of Endearment, on the most successful businesses in the long term showed that they have very open meritocratic honest cultures, for example BMW, Ikea, South West Airlines and Google. If you are an innovative company you can’t have a culture of deceit. People are able to say this isn’t working and we need to fix it before it’s terminal for the business.

This month People Management has been focusing on lies in the workplace and has found that some businesses have been using polygraph tests to check the veracity of staff. Bosses are using lie detectors to vet job candidates for drink and drug problems as well as criminal convictions, while others use it to root out staff who have leaked confidential information or committed fraud”.

Unfortunately polygraphs measure stress – not lies – and the other bad news is that there is no Pinocchio’s Nose. No single indicator of deception.

The good news is that we have evolved as a species to have a instinctive ‘sense’ that can pick up what others are thinking and feeling. We just have to make sure we dont filter those micro expressions and signals from the faces, bodies and voices of others with biases, mislearning from many body-language books and inattentiveness.

The better news is that good training can increase the average ability in lie detection from 54% (Aldert Vrij- 2008) to 90% with around 32 hours training using Dr Paul Ekman’s 40 year’s of research. The same research that underpins the Tim Roth drama, ‘Lie to Me’.

Posted on: Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

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