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White Lies and Whoppers – The Truth About Communication at Work


Up to a third of workplace communications involve some distortion of the truth and 15% involve lying.

But the chances of a truthful response are higher if the question is asked face-to-face rather than by phone or email.

And the chances of a truthful response via email or telephone are enhanced if colleagues have developed strong bonds.

Those are the findings of research by Dr Sandi Mann and Ms Wincy Shek of the University of Central Lancashire, which were presented this week at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology.

The overall aim of the research was to enhance understanding of when and how deception is most likely to occur in the workplace so organisations can be better equipped to manage it.

Distorting information, withholding information, providing deliberately ambiguous information or changing the subject in order to deceive were the most common forms of deception.

Dr Mann said: “This study suggests that deception occurs frequently in everyday workplace communications. Some types of deception occur more frequently than others and managers and employees should be on their guard for these. Not only does deception occur less frequently in face-to-face interactions, but also when people are communicating with those that they feel closer to.”

Ms Shek added: “Therefore managers may be wise to encourage team-building and bonding activities in order to develop psychological closeness between themselves and their subordinates and also within all employees.”


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