How can you tell when the boss is lying?


Bob Sutton, Stanford MBA school professor and author of The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t, highlights a piece in The Economist covering a new study can help you tell when people on conference calls are lying.

The Economist gives the best cheat sheet:

Deceptive bosses, it transpires, tend to make more references to general knowledge (“as you know…”), and refer less to shareholder value (perhaps to minimise the risk of a lawsuit, the authors hypothesise). They also use fewer “non-extreme positive emotion words”. That is, instead of describing something as “good”, they call it “fantastic”. The aim is to “sound more persuasive” while talking horsefeathers.

When they are lying, bosses avoid the word “I”, opting instead for the third person. They use fewer “hesitation words”, such as “um” and “er”, suggesting that they may have been coached in their deception. As with Mr Skilling’s “asshole”, more frequent use of swear words indicates deception.

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