Turns out you can use a fancy-dancy suit to track their joint movement to determine, with 75 percent accuracy, who is lying. Or at least that's the claim of Xsens mocap suits. While this seems cool, it's completely impractical for the business environment. Just imagine:
"Hey, John, I think you're lying about something, so go ahead and put this suit on and we'll see if you are!"
"Hey, John, come put this suit on. No reason! No reason at all! Now, let's answer a few questions, shall we?"
Not going to work. But, you do need something that will work. Here are five things that will not only help you determine honesty, but encourage honesty in the office.
1. Be honest yourself.
You may think this one is ridiculous. You are honest! Most of the time, anyway. And you really meant it at the moment when you said that you were working on a promotion for Jane, but things come up, you know? If you'd gotten on the phone with that vendor, you would have missed your next meeting, because she never shuts up, so of course you had your admin say you were out of the office. Self-preservation!
These little white lies keep things calm and pleasant, but do too many of them and people stop believing you. When they stop believing you, they'll stop seeing the reason to be honest with you. You'll lose their trust and your own ability to sort out the truth.
2. Don't shoot the messenger.
Sometimes bad things happen in business. Mistakes happen. They've happened in all businesses in the past and will happen in all businesses in the future. What you want, though, is to know when mistakes happen, so that you can fix them. When you punish people for mistakes or for informing you about these mistakes, their inclination is to lie about things and hide them from you. Sometimes this works out and they are able to fix whatever happened on their own, but sometimes the problem gets worse.
3. Pay attention to actual job performance.
There's a pretty good probability that you have someone on your staff that will try to use lying and deception to climb to the top while throwing their co-workers under the bus. These people are often masters at manipulation, as they've been honing their skills since 6th grade. So, you need to make sure you are looking at actual performance and not what is coming out of someone's mouth. Who really did do the bulk of the work on that project? How do you know that? Because Jane said she did? But, wasn't Steve the one who was here working late? This takes a lot more effort than just believing what everyone says, but in the end, it gives you a better work environment.
4. Pay attention to body language.
Now, don't start thinking you're a body language expert after reading an article or even a book, but Dr. Lillian Glass, a behavioral analyst and body language expert who has worked with the FBI wrote The Body Language of Liars: From Little White Lies to Pathological Deception--How to See through the Fibs, Frauds, and Falsehoods People Tell You Every Day.
She says things such as suddenly changing head position, breathing changes, providing too much information, or not blinking can indicate lying. Remember that these signs can indicate lying, but they don't always. This type of behavior might tip you off that you should investigate further, but don't fire someone over sounding out of breath.
6. Don't deal in hunches, deal in facts.
Even experts aren't right 100 percent of the time. In fact, The New Yorker reports:
The psychologist Paul Ekman, professor emeritus at U.C. San Francisco, has spent more than half a century studying nonverbal expressions of emotion and deception. Over the years, he has had more than fifteen thousand subjects watch video clips of people either lying or telling the truth about topics ranging from emotional reactions to witnessing amputations to theft, from political opinions to future plans. Their success rate at identifying honesty has been approximately fifty-five per cent. The nature of the lie--or truth--doesn't even matter.
How does this knowledge help stop lying in your office? Because if your employees know you're going to look at end results before you listen to explanations, that you're going to be honest about all that you do and that you prefer to hear about small problems before they grow into big ones, your culture will change. Honesty will become the norm at your office.