Shoot The Messenger

Manipulating a husband for Chinese food is an excusable sin, but how about taking that same process to a higher level with bigger stakes? By manipulating the truth, a variety of unexpected and possibly severe results may occur. In the area of parental relationships, think back to how you used to control the truth in high school when your parents questioned you about the people you hung around, the hours you kept, your commitment to school or your college plans. If your parents found out about any indiscretions, and they usually did, they would likely penalize you. “These grades are terrible. You may not use the car again until they are better.” That was when you first learned truth manipulation or “spin control.” Your response to the grade issue? “Oh, yeah, I forgot to turn in assignments when I had the flu and was out. I turned in all that work this morning, and they’ll be issuing an updated progress report next week.” Your dumbfounded parents stood there blind-sided and watched you drive out the driveway. This ability served you well then, but it created a manipulative monster that learned that, by defusing the bombs of pressure in a situation, you could reduce conflict and get what you wanted.

Know When To Hold ‘Em

In the days when Christians were sacrificed to lions for sport, there was a theory that, when the lions roared, the victims in the arena should run at them to confuse the beasts into a non-attack mode. Sometimes it really worked, a term dubbed “running to the roar.” The key to this lesson is that it worked for a while. Later, when the animals became used to this trick, they would simply begin to roar and open their mouths for the food to come running in. This is much the same with manipulating the details: if you do it all the time, those with control over you begin to expect it, and understand that you are simply manipulating the truth to make yourself look good and force others to take the blame.

Boss: Tim, I thought we’d set a deadline of December 1 for this project to be completed and billed out.

Employee: You’re absolutely right, Mr. Evans, we did, and I already have a call into the marketing department, which (angrily checking his watch) was supposed to be here hours ago with the final calculations for the advertising blitz. I am learning if I want something done, I’ll have to do it myself, so I’ll find out if they’re on their way and get back to you.

Boss: Call them again while I am here (an unexpected response because this employee has become famous for this kind of act).

Employee: Now? They are probably at lunch.

Boss (seeing blood in the water, sits down): Try anyway.

Employee (out of cards to bluff with, Tim begins to panic and asks if he can be truthful, which means trying to tell a different lie): “You know what really happened? I probably shouldn’t tell you this but …”

Boss (interrupting): Yes, Tim, I think I do know what happened. What happened is what’s happening right now, and that is that you are a habitual liar. Please clean out your desk and leave by the end of business today. You are fired.

Employee: Why?

Boss: Because you’ve become so accustomed to lying, you don’t even know when you are telling the truth yourself anymore. I can no longer trust you or what you might do. This kind of thing destroys companies. Please go.

On The Flip Side

In another light, what if your boss has set up an environment in which the messenger is killed? He has therefore taught you to lie to protect yourself. Knowing if you say the market opened poorly or profits are down, he may take out his frustrations on you. When he says, “What’s the profit margin at the moment?”, you say, “Haven’t seen the numbers yet this morning, sir, but I should know in about an hour.” You have removed yourself from the line of fire and will probably put the numbers in writing, or communicate them through some fledgling rookie who is just waiting for an opportunity to meet the boss. Self-preservation is a human trait that you shouldn’t be ashamed of, but the truth is that management has trained you to lie by penalizing you for the truth. Let’s be honest, folks, this happens in a lot of places. I’m no Dr. Phil, but if I had to pick the players in this game, open communication, truth and reactions to the truth are at the center of all of it.

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