“No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.” ~Abraham Lincoln
“The trust of the innocent is the liar's most useful tool.” ~Stephen King
Trust is something that all of us should have with our boss, but we aren’t always lucky enough to have it or there is a time where we are forced to question that trust. While we all have an instinctual “radar” for lies that has been built up over the years, there are some clues to look for when you are concerned your boss may not be as truthful as you’d like.
Now a quick disclaimer that your boss is human like everyone else, and as such can have A LOT of things that play into how they behave from one moment to another. While we would all like a “silver bullet” which could tell us when they are lying, it doesn’t yet exist. So please don’t take these as definitive proof of a lie, they are something to be taken into account when formulating your opinion of the truthfulness of what was said.
So what should you look for?
Avoiding “I” – When someone is lying they typically attempt to distance themselves from the lie itself, or give themselves some other form of “out” if the lie is discovered. When it comes to manner of speech, one of the indications is avoiding the first person “I” in their statements. Boss’s routinely take ownership of statements, opinions and directives, but in the case of lying, they will speak in a more academic or factual manner as opposed to taking ownership over the subject matter.
Uncomfortable & fidgety – Even the most consummate liar is uncomfortable doing so, it’s just not natural and there is always the fear of being caught. While generally uncomfortable subject matter can be part of the cause, when the subject matter is more routine, yet they are still showing signs of discomfort, this can be a concern. This is a particularly good clue for your boss as they are generally more comfortable within the walls of their department, so they should be at ease.
Avoiding eye contact or too much eye contact – The discomfort of telling a lie can also show in eye contact if they are avoiding it, but not always. Sometime your boss may hold eye contact for an uncomfortably long time as a means of trying to convince you of their sincerity. In both cases it is when it seems awkward that there should be concern.
Verbal/Non-Verbal disconnect – The subconscious mind is the enemy of a liar. Where this can come up is when the words that are spoken convey the opposite of the body language or emotion with which they are said. Think about your boss nodding their head, but saying “No”. The most common place this shows up is when anger seems to come out of nowhere surrounding a topic that shouldn’t really be warranting that emotion. This can come about because of your boss’s guilt/discomfort at a lie, or as a means of bullying their way to making you believe the lie.
Just different – What most people are seeing when they “get the feeling” that their boss may be lying to them is something different than what they usually see from their boss. It could be facial expressions, body language, different manner of speech, or any number of other “different” behavior. I guess if you have a boss that constantly lies, perhaps this could be indicative of truthfulness.
Avoiding questions – When they quickly change the subject after answering a question, or find a way to escape the conversation when pressed for clarity, that’s a good indication of discomfort. Again, this is part of the fight or flight instinct.
Proclaiming honesty – Why do you feel the need to reassure someone that you’re being honest? When you know you aren’t being honest, otherwise why would you feel the need to reassure. This can be particularly telling when the proclamation is made after the lie as they are subconsciously recognizing what they did and need to reinforce it.
Delay – The truth is easy to remember and easy to convey, lies take effort. When you see a delay that is just a little too long from your boss, you know that they are either uncomfortable with what they are thinking about, or need slightly longer to double-check how believable their planned response is. Either way it is a sign of the answer you receive being more contrived.
Filler words – The other way that the effort it takes to lie shows is when your boss uses a lot off filler words like “um.” This is indicative of the brain taking extra time to come up with the words to believably explain their point.
Backward leaning – The next time your boss leans back in their chair and away from the desk or conference table, ask yourself what was just said prior. Leaning back away from you is a way of subconsciously distancing themselves from what was just said.
Again, while all of these can be indicators of lying, they aren’t conclusive. Furthermore, living your life in constant suspicion is stressful and unfulfilling. So the last bit of advice for spotting a lying boss is to keep an “innocent until proven guilty” attitude towards them. It’s healthier and, with the exception of the absolute worst bosses, most often to be the correct finding.