Professional Development Work Relationships

When Should You Lie at Work?

Written by Peter Jones

Lying is wrong. We’ve got that rule down pretty well. But what if sometimes a tiny wee fib actually might be much less wrong than telling the truth? What if it could, in fact, protect you from job-related disaster?

We’re not advocating lying often, or really much at all. But here are 3 situations in which, on a case-by-case basis, it might be okay not to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but.

1. You’re looking for a new job

Especially if you’re only looking because you fear (with good reason) that your company is about to start making layoffs, or pay cuts, or that your department might be due for a shake-up. It is possible to get fired from your old job merely for looking for a new job. Keep your cards close to your vest. Tell your prospective employers to refrain from contacting your current employer as a reference if you can get away with it as well.

2. You don’t really want to go team-building bowling

You’ll have to go to lots and lots of happy hours and dinners and parties, particularly if your company is a social one. But every once in a while, it’s perfectly reasonable to need a night to yourself. Try to do this sparingly, and make sure not to overuse your go-to excuses. But it is important to take time for yourself, and sometimes a vague fib about a prior commitment can do the trick without offending anyone.

3. You have a gap on your resume

Wait, that can’t be right. The very last place you’re ever supposed to bend the truth is on your resume, right? Well…it is possible to finesse the truth in small, but potent ways. Not lying, per se, just not volunteering information that could adversely affect your chances.

Try formatting your resume to emphasize your accomplishments and skills, rather than to list a precise chronology of your positions. It’s not 100% honest, but it’s not entirely dishonest either. Be prepared to answer any questions honestly in the interview—so have something to say about why the gap is there before you go this route.

About the author

Peter Jones