30 Lies That Employees Tell Their Bosses

By   

View as:

'I Love My Job' written on a Post-It note
Photo credit: Oko_SwanOmurphy/istockphoto

LYING ON THE JOB

Is there ever a reason for a worker to lie to a boss? Sure, but they aren't necessarily good. Ninety-three percent of workers lie "regularly and habitually" in the workplace, according to a survey by psychotherapist Brad Blanton — and that's more often than we would at home. So what are the lies we tell, and why do we tell them? We found a number that are not only common, but have been told so often that the truth can seem odder by comparison.
Closeup of doctor's arms folded
Photo credit: PeopleImages/istockphoto

I HAVE/DON'T HAVE A DOCTOR'S APPOINTMENT

Why lie about a doctors' appointment? If you're over 50, you know. In a SimplyHired survey on workplace lying, it was noted that laws protecting workers against age discrimination didn't change the fact that long-term unemployment is higher among Americans over 50 — who fear replacement by younger, less expensive workers. Not only are older workers more likely to lie about having to see a doctor, but parents (37 percent) lie about appointments more than non-parents (31 percent). Again, despite such discrimination being illegal, an increasing number of workplace parents are suing employers for discriminating against them. Other employees, meanwhile, may say that they have a doctors' appointment to miss part or all of a work day.
Woman holding her sore throat
Photo credit: Vertigo3d/istockphoto

I'M SICK

Nearly 60 percent of workers will call in sick to watch a sporting event, a Kronos survey once found, and while 80 percent feel bad about it, even that seemingly small lie can cost businesses 8.7 percent of their productivity each year. Even 28 percent of workers at companies with paid time off lie to get a sick day, and those lies have consequences: 38 percent of employers have checked up on a sick worker (43 percent have caught an employee lying by checking social media posts) and 26 percent have fired someone for using a fake excuse.
Closeup of a resume
Photo credit: mstahlphoto/istockphoto

I HAVE A TON OF WORK EXPERIENCE

Asked about lying on resumes, almost half — 46 percent — of more than 1,000 workers and 300 senior managers said they knew someone who'd "enhanced" their credentials. That's up a whopping 25 points from a similar OfficeTeam survey in 2011. There are consequences to the lies, though: Roughly 75 percent of human resources managers have caught a lie on a resume, according to CareerBuilder, and only 12 percent would call back an applicant who lied.

Smiling young woman ready for her interview
Photo credit: sturti/istockphoto

I'M WHO I SAID I WAS IN MY INTERVIEW

Around half of employers know if a person is the right fit for the job within the first five minutes of their interview, according to CareerBuilder. While 71 percent of employers say they'd take a job candidate out of consideration if they caught them in a lie, that still leaves 29 percent who'd let them continue the process. But it isn't as if the truth is always helpful: One manager said a candidate began an interview admitting he did not have the skills to do the job, and "fake it until you make it" was his philosophy. He did not get the position.
Upset woman at work
Photo credit: PeopleImages/istockphoto

I'M NOT CRYING AT WORK

More than half of women surveyed by SimplyHired admitted to hiding crying at work, and just 13 percent of men. Research has shown women are more likely to be judged for their emotions than male co-workers and are less likely to be promoted to leadership positions, meaning women polled were more likely responding with a male boss in mind while participating in the study.
Sneakers with left and right stickers in red and blue
Photo credit: malerapaso/istockphoto

I HAVE NO POLITICAL AFFILIATION

In Western states such as California, Oregon, and Washington, SimplyHired found that 26 percent of Republicans kept their political affiliation a secret, and 37 percent of Democrats living in the South said the same.
Social media apps
Photo credit: bigtunaonline/istockphoto

I'M NOT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media accounts for $15.5 billion in lost work production. It makes workers 13 percent less productive and imperils jobs altogether, as bosses pay increasing attention to the things workers say online. Workers have learned to close windows and go anonymous if they're going to use social media and keep their job.
Woman working at home with one kid in her lap and another in the background
Photo credit: damircudic/istockphoto

I DON'T WORK PART-TIME ELSEWHERE

Calling it a "side hustle" doesn't make it any less of a burden to work more than one job just to make ends meet. Bankrate notes that 37 percent of U.S. workers now have second jobs. That's close to 8 million workers, the highest number in nearly 20 years. Critics suggest that number might be higher, but nobody wants to tell a boss they aren't being paid enough.
Man peering over his laptop suspiciously
Photo credit: stockyimages/istockphoto

I DON'T DO OTHER WORK ON COMPANY TIME

If you are one of those 8 million Americans making an average $686 a month at a second job, you definitely don't want to tell your bosses they're paying you to do it. Whether you're using company resources for that other job or just company time, moonlighting while at your first job is typically frowned upon.
Man at work standing up from his desk and holding his back in pain
Photo credit: PeopleImages/istockphoto

I'M PHYSICALLY HEALTHY

The cost of employer-sponsored insurance continues to rise, and employers routinely find ways around increased costs. Though there are state laws in place to prevent you from being fired due to illness, that doesn't prevent employers from at least trying. If they didn't, there would be no reason for the more than 1 in every 5 employees lying about illness.
Man holding his head down depressed
Photo credit: Rawpixel/istockphoto

I'M MENTALLY HEALTHY

There is a stigma attached to mental health issues in the workplace, which is why roughly 20 percent of workers have lied about it. Workers fear not only that stigma, but professional retaliation for their conditions. Meanwhile, the effort that goes into hiding those conditions — including depression and anxiety — costs American employers $100 billion a year.
Man drinking alcohol at his desk at work
Photo credit: Tero Vesalainen/istockphoto

I'M SOBER AT WORK

Roughly 19 percent of employees admit using legal or illicit substances during work hours — compared with just 10.6 percent of the public at large — with employers having no idea. Only 18 states have drug-testing policies in place.
Cross necklace on a woman
Photo credit: Goldfinch4ever/istockphoto

I'M NOT RELIGIOUS

Religious workers, as well as atheists, are protected in the workplace by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But nearly 17 percent of workers opt to keep their religious affiliation private or outright lie about it to bosses. Part of it comes down to privacy, but avoiding judgment or harassment and going along to get along is in there too.
Worker taking money from the cash register
Photo credit: Fertnig/istockphoto

I'M NOT STEALING FROM THE COMPANY

The good news is that only 14 percent of workers admitted stealing from the company, with 59 percent of those saying they later felt bad about it. The bad news? About 1 in 5 government and public administration employees lied about stealing from their companies at least once in their careers. Your tax dollars at work.
Coworkers flirting
Photo credit: gradyreese/istockphoto

I'M NOT ATTRACTED TO YOU

Considering that many workplaces still frown on interoffice relationships between workers and their managers, it's for the best that not every boss-worker attraction is acted on. But 22 percent of employees have dated their boss at some point, and 30 percent have dated someone at a higher level in the organization. While this is okay in some workplaces, it still means notifying HR — and living with the rest of the company knowing.
Closeup of couple holding hands
Photo credit: Wavebreakmedia/istockphoto

I'M NOT DATING ANYONE AT THE OFFICE

It is a terrible time for interoffice romance. Just 36 percent of workers told CareerBuilder that they dated a co-worker last year. Of that group, 41 percent said they had to keep the relationship a secret. Not only do many workplaces make interoffice romance a human resources issue, but only 31 percent of workers who start dating at work end up with that person long-term. Some folks just like their privacy, but others just don't want to deal with more paperwork — even if it's a relationship disclosure agreement.
Male and female coworkers standing very close to each other signifying romance
Photo credit: Paul Bradbury/istockphoto

I'M NOT HAVING SEX AT WORK

Just 11.1 percent of workers have lied about having sex at work. It's a practice that's almost unanimously discouraged, but roughly 14 percent of workers admitted to having sex in the workplace. It isn't that the rest are telling the truth: It's that 19 percent of those adventuresome duos got caught in the act.
Young man at work standing against a wall with his hands on his face looking distraught
Photo credit: PeopleImages/istockphoto

I'M STRAIGHT

More than half of LGBTQ workers hide their sexual orientation. While more than 4 in 5 heterosexual employees in a SimplyHired study said LGBTQ co-workers shouldn't have to, more than half also admitted they'd feel uncomfortable if they heard those co-workers talking about their social life on the job. Also, fewer than half of all states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. As a result, 1 in 5 of those workers look for an accepting environment when choosing where to work, and some have even left jobs for not accepting their identity. Meanwhile, 71 percent of men and women polled who identified as gay or bisexual in Southern states including Texas, Florida, and Georgia said they hid their sexual orientation from their bosses; more than half of people from the Midwest said the same.
Criminal background check
Photo credit: AndreyPopov/istockphoto

I DON'T HAVE A CRIMINAL HISTORY

Just 6 percent of workers lie about having a criminal history, which is pretty good when 650,000 people are released from prisons each year. While there are several impassioned arguments for hiring people with criminal records, and it's outright illegal to discriminate against them in certain cases, many people out of prison are faced with job applications asking them to check a box about their criminal past. While discouraging, experts agree that lying on those applications is far worse than telling the truth — especially with more resources now available to those with records.
Pregnant woman standing up from her desk
Photo credit: Zinkevych/istockphoto

I'M NOT PREGNANT

Just 7.5 percent of workers have lied about being pregnant, fairly low considering that discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace is widespread (and the pregnant liars say they feel guiltier about it than those who lie about a criminal history). Parental leave options aren't great and, despite pregnancy discrimination being illegal, major companies continue to be sued over it.
Expense account on a tablet
Photo credit: courtneyk/istockphoto

I'M NOT ABUSING THE EXPENSE ACCOUNT

Expense report fraud costs companies an estimated $1.9 billion a year. More than a third of those caught were padding expense reports by between $100 and $500. Is that bad? Absolutely: It isn't your money.
Daddy and Me drawing from a child
Photo credit: Halfpoint/istockphoto

I TOTALLY HAVE KIDS AND EXTENDED FAMILY

Don't underestimate the power of "my kid's sick" or "my uncle died." When true, they'll earn you the sympathy of your boss and coworkers and a little time to deal with each. When false, as in the case of the 5.1 percent of workers who lie about such things, it doesn't speak well of you as a person or employee. There's a reason why 36 percent feel bad about it later, but it's still frightening that 64 percent are just fine with tormenting fake family members to get a day off.
Man sleeping at his desk with Post-It notes over his eyes
Photo credit: PeopleImages/istockphoto

I DIDN'T FALL ASLEEP ON THE JOB

About 10 percent of workers have lied to a boss about sleeping at work. More than a quarter feel really badly about it. But we get it: The National Safety Council says 90 percent of workplaces are the worse for employee fatigue, but only 55 percent of employees adjust work schedules or responsibility as a result. With commute times increasing by more than two hours within the past year alone, workers have plenty of reason for sleeping on the job. They still shouldn't.
Man wearing a wrinkled blue shirt
Photo credit: timnewman/istockphoto

NO, THAT SHIRT LOOKS GREAT

Sometimes you just want to avoid an awkward situation. That's completely understandable, as that's still your boss and critiquing a manager's sartorial decisions still has unintended consequences. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London and Columbia University, notes that not all lies are immoral. This one, in particular is pro-social: "Successful interpersonal functioning often requires the ability to mask one's inner feelings. Total honesty can take the form of amoral selfishness."
Checking email on a phone
Photo credit: oatawa/istockphoto

I DIDN'T GET THE EMAIL

Now you're just dodging blame. As Chamorro-Premuzic points out, a self-preservative lie based on objective facts — "I graduated from Stanford" or "I will finish this project by Monday" — is self-defeating. You may not get in trouble for it, but it could damage your reputation if it's found out.
Hiding behind a laptop, focused on work
Photo credit: TommL/istockphoto

CAN'T TALK, HUGE DEADLINE

You may want to just satisfy your own personal agenda and get the boss out of the way, and that isn't always bad as long as it's for the benefit of your work and the company.
Woman speaking during a company meeting
Photo credit: PeopleImages/istockphoto

THAT WAS MY IDEA

Stealing credit is terrible when bosses do it, but it's just as awful when a worker does it. Not only did you not put in the work that someone else did, but you're trying to mask an insecurity for your own gain. "Status-enhancing lies are also often used to establish or maintain close bonds with others," Chamorro-Premuzic says, but those bonds tend to shatter when the lies are discovered.
Stack of documents and papers
Photo credit: fstop123/istockphoto

LET ME HELP WITH THAT

If you're going to volunteer for a project, make sure you can follow through. If you're going to make empty promises to gain status, just realize that not finishing what you started can diminish your reputation and ultimately hurt a career.
Coworkers gossiping during a meeting
Photo credit: Wavebreakmedia/istockphoto

YOU KNOW HE DRINKS, RIGHT?

Gossiping might be about "framing yourself as an insider instead of an outsider," and if you pretend not to like someone because you know the boss doesn't like them, it may put you in the boss' good graces for a while, Chamorro-Premuzic says. But you might also look like a troublemaker sowing dissent.
Coworkers giving each other a high-five
Photo credit: nortonrsx/istockphoto

I'VE READ THAT BOOK

You're just making small talk with the boss, right? So what if you haven't read the book that changed your boss' way of thinking forever? "You may instinctively answer 'yes' in order to avoid rejection," Chamorro-Premuzic says. "But this in turn actually increases your insecurity — what if you're found out? — which will increase your probability of continuing to lie in the future."

Cheapism.com participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.