This is what we ask our colleagues and partners. And we expect professional honesty. We want them to be truthful with us. We hate deception in the workplace.

Do you also think that honesty and trust are two of the most crucial elements in professional relationships?

Let’s be frank: in the professional world, each one of us has faced the temptation to distort information. And we’ve been misled.

Deception in the workplace: Are you deceiving me?

So, what’s going on? Why don’t we both give and receive something so essential to us in our relationships with colleagues and business partners? Today, we’ll delve into this.

Nietzsche once said:

„I’m not upset that you lied to me; I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.“


When one thinks of the workplace, it’s not just a space filled with desks, computers, and coffee mugs. It’s an intricate tapestry woven with threads of trust, respect, and mutual goals. Each thread signifies the relationship between colleagues and between employees and management. However, when deception enters the picture, this tapestry begins to unravel.

1. Broken Trust: At its core, deception erodes trust. A study by The Journal of Applied Psychology (Bennett & Robinson, 2000) found that workplace dishonesty directly impacts trust levels, leading to reduced morale and increased skepticism among employees1. Imagine the strain and weight of suspicion that lingers after deception is discovered. Trust, once broken, can take years to rebuild and may never return to its original state.

2. Reduced Productivity: According to a study published in The Harvard Business Review, when employees feel their colleagues or superiors are deceptive, their productivity dips significantly2. They expend more energy on being cautious, safeguarding themselves, and less on actual work.

3. Financial Consequences: Deception, especially when it comes to finances or data manipulation, can result in substantial financial loss. A report by The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) revealed that companies worldwide lose up to 5% of their revenue annually due to fraud and deception3. That’s not just numbers. It’s people’s hard work, aspirations, and dreams dissipating into the ether.

4. Emotional and Physical Health: The stress of deception – both being deceived and deceiving others – can have significant health implications. Continuous stress can lead to conditions like heart disease, depression, and anxiety. As Deepak Chopra often emphasizes, our emotional well-being and physical health are intricately linked. A workplace tainted with deceit not only hampers our professional growth but can also diminish our vitality and zest for life.

In the profound words of Oprah,

„Truth allows you to live with integrity. Everything you do and say shows the world who you really are. Let it be the truth.“

it’s a gentle reminder that while deception may offer short-term gains, its long-term damages, both tangible and emotional, can be profound.

UNDERSTANDING Deception in the workplace: LAYERS TO CONSIDER

What does „are you deceiving me“ mean in a professional context? Speaking falsehoods; deceiving, misleading, betraying; deceiving oneself, and lying to oneself are all definitions of deception.

We can see two levels here:

1. telling lies, deceiving, or misleading colleagues or partners; and

2. deceiving, or misleading oneself

I have a few theories about why we might misrepresent information in the workplace (it would be nice if you could give your thoughts on this as well). And how to deal with them:

  • We are afraid of losing our position or status in the firm.
  • To prevent potential controversies or criticism. It’s sometimes simpler to speak what we think others want to hear rather than convey the truth or our honest feelings.
  • Due to competition. In many competitive contexts, some people may feel compelled to tell lies in order to outperform their peers or competitors.
  • For fear of failure. Admitting that something hasn’t been completed or that a project has gotten off track can be difficult. When looking for a solution, lying may appear to be an easy way out.


Deception, whether directed at you or directed at yourself, can be a difficult emotional hurdle in the workplace. However, with the correct coping strategies, these stormy waters can be navigated with grace and fortitude.

  1. Awareness of one’s own self: Begin by expressing your emotions without judgment. Recognize whether you’ve been duped or are unknowingly fooling yourself. I realize it’s easier said than done. We all have blind spots that can be disclosed more easily if we work with a coach or talk to a friend. Accepting the truth of the situation is the first step in finding a solution.
  2. Open Communication: Make a safe area for you to express your feelings and worries. If a colleague is deceiving you, consider having a calm and transparent talk with them, or discussing the problem with a trusted mentor or coach. Expect nothing spectacular. People do tell lies. People are capable of deceiving themselves. That is the harsh fact. However, in order to be happier and more successful in life, learn to speak more openly and authentically.
  3. Introspection: Spend time introspectively understanding the underlying causes of your behaviour. If you find yourself repeating patterns of self-deception, it could be due to fear, past experiences, or unfulfilled objectives. This technique may be easier for certain introverted persons than others. Reflection, on the other hand, can be immensely gratifying if practiced on a regular basis.
  4. Limit Negative Influence: Consider setting boundaries if specific individuals or organizations habitually engage in deceitful behavior. Engaging with such influences less frequently can help you preserve your mental wellness. I discovered an intriguing way to think about trust: you can always trust a liar. You can be certain that he will deceive you.
  5. Seeking Guidance: An outside perspective can sometimes give insight on internal struggle. Consider working with a professional coach who can provide insights, resources, and techniques to help you overcome such obstacles. A coach can help with more than just professional skills; they can also help with emotional and psychological well-being.
  6. Practice Integrity: Be open and honest in your behaviors. Make sure your words match your deeds. By cultivating a culture of integrity, you accidentally create an environment in which falsehood struggles to survive. But be cautious! Lying comes naturally to people; we’ve been practicing it for years and are very good at it. Integrity requires time, effort, and practice.
  7. Continue Your Education: Read articles, books, or attend workshops on understanding and combating deception. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be.
  8. Self-Care: Participate in activities that promote your well-being. Meditation, journaling, or even a stroll around the park might provide a respite from the complications of workplace dynamics.

and finally, on deception at work

There is a resounding reality in the maze of job challenges: having an ally can make all the difference. Whether that ally is within you, in the form of resilience and understanding, or externally, as a coach, seeking counsel can help you manage these problems with newfound confidence and clarity.

If you feel the weight of dishonesty weighing down on you, remember that you have a choice. Always go with the truth. Choose the truth right now. Do not put yourself in a bind. You can’t always be on guard and truthful. Just be better today. That’s all there is to it.

Finally, in professional relationships, honesty and trust are critical. As managers, coworkers, or partners, we must actively endeavor to build and maintain these principles in our workplace.

Top of Form

  1. Bennett, R.J., & Robinson, S.L. (2000). Development of a measure of workplace deviance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85(3), 349-360.
  2. Edmondson, A. (1999). Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams. Harvard Business Review.
  3. ACFE. (2018). Report to the Nations: 2018 Global Study on Occupational Fraud and Abuse.