Have you ever had the feeling the boss is lying?
Perhaps it was during during a job interview when your future boss told you dozens of people who work at the company use flexible schedules. Or maybe you have had that feeling when your CEO told you the workplace was about to go through a huge reorganization, but there was no need to worry about your job security.
It's bad enough when our kids lie to us, but when the CEO lies, it can lead to financial disaster.
This morning, NPR had a report on CEOs who lie. The report mentioned that after studying thousands of corporate earnings calls, two researchers from Stanford University think they've come up with a way to tell when senior executives are fibbing. They wondered if by studying this fibbing they could predict those companies that are likely to have problems.
They discovered some key indicators of deception, a pattern in the language used by CEOs whose companies later were plagued with fraud or had to restate earnings. Lying executives tend to overuse words like "we" and "our team" when they talk about their company. They avoid saying "I."
Researchers say there's a reason: "If I'm saying 'I' or 'me' or 'mine,' I'm showing my ownership of the statement, so psychologically I'm showing I'm responsible for what I'm saying."
Lying CEOs also tend to use a lot of words that express positive emotion — things are fabulous and fantastic and extraordinary. When Enron was about to implode then CEO Ken Lay used phrases like "extremely strong" and "very successful." After the financial meltdown, investors want transparency. They are ready to seize on any tool they can find to figure out who they can trust.
So are employees.
We want to trust our company leaders. Which leads me to wonder, can those same key indicators help us determine whether a CEO is lying about work life balance policies, raises and job security? An earlier NPR report offers this advice: Liars come in with a script in their heads, rehearsed answers.
Next time your CEO launches into a speech meant to motivate the workforce, look for those key indicators. Unfortunately, as a reporter, I've heard many CEOs lie, and yes, I do think they lie just as much to their own employees as they do investors.
Have you ever had your boss lie to you? Is it more frustrating to be lied to about a company's financial health or about promises to employees? Are there any clues you feel give away a lying CEO?