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Article: Managers, Do You Lie to Them? Related Resources

"Managers, Do You Lie to Them?"
by Marnie Green

The other day I had some new office furniture delivered. The very professional and efficient delivery person took my payment, and when he saw the name of my business on the check, he asked what the Management Education Group did. I told him that I coach and teach managers to be more effective as leaders. The delivery person quickly replied, “So, you teach them to lie to us?”

Since the delivery person seemed to be such a positive and enthusiastic person, I was taken aback by his comments. It made me wonder if employees in general feel this way about their managers or if this was an isolated case. After some thought, I realized that it’s no wonder in today’s business environment that employees are not manager’s biggest fans. In fact, managers have been battling an “us vs. them” attitude for years.

While the sentiment probably began eons ago, our earliest recollections are from the late 1800s, when factories exploited children and workers operated in unsafe conditions. There’s no doubt that workers back then did not trust their management.

Personally, my first recollection of being mistrustful of leaders coincided with the Watergate scandal. I learned from the television that all leaders are not ‘good guys’ and that sometimes they lie to us. While Nixon was not my boss, he was in charge of my country. If I couldn’t trust him, who could I trust?

Now, with the rash of corporate scandals--Enron, Worldcomm, and others—more and more workers are being convinced that those in leadership positions have likely lied to get where they are. And, while there are surely more honest leaders in the world than there are liars, it’s easy to see why workers aren’t sure who to trust these days.

If you are a manager working to gain the trust of your workers, please keep in mind that it’s harder than ever before. However, there are a few things you can do to increase the levels of trust within your organization:

1. Tell the truth. If you don’t tell it like it is, you risk appearing evasive. Evasiveness is the leading cause of mistrust. Even if it’s bad news, don’t beat around the bush or sugar coat the truth. Just tell it like it is.

2. Give constant feedback. One way to ensure that your employees don’t trust you is to say nothing at all. When you don’t share your thoughts and feelings, they will substitute their own ideas for yours. And, those thoughts and feelings may or not be what you are really thinking. The more feedback and information you can share, the more likely they are to believe what you have to say.

3. Be aware of your impact. So many managers are absorbed with the tasks they have to perform that they forget the impact they can have on others. The more aware you are of your own behavior and how it impacts others, the more likely you are to project trustworthiness.

Do you lie to your employees? Of course you don’t. However, they may perceive lies if you are not working to clarify the truth.

Marnie E. Green is Principal Consultant of the Arizona-based Management Education Group, Inc. She is the author of Painless Performance Evaluations: A Practical Approach to Managing Day to Day Employee Performance (Pearson/Prentice Hall). Green is a speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations develop leaders today for the workforce of tomorrow. Contact Green at

Marnie Green may be contacted at

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