THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Office secrets: Three times you should lie at work

Truth is beautiful, but there are three times when you should lie at work:

1. If you are a messy person

People make a wide range of judgments based on your office, whether you like it or not. For example, a plant makes you look stable, and a candy dish makes you look like an extrovert, according to Sam Gosling, professor of psychology at University of Texas.

If you have a messy desk, people think you're incompetent. They think you are overwhelmed by your workload, that you are not conscientious, and that you are not thinking clearly.

It doesn't really matter if you really are those things, since you are promoted and fired based on perceptions. You cannot control for what people base their perceptions on, but you can make changes in your life to change how people perceive you. So do that.

But before you say messiness should be acceptable, consider a recent report in the Economist, that shows people are nicer, and better versions of themselves, in an environment that is neat and clean.

This means you should consider making your office clean even if you think cleanliness is BS. And you can just pretend to be clean by making your office neat but leaving your computer desktop a mess (there is no research that says that people judge you by that.) And you can have your house be a mess. (Although Gosling has research to suggest that this will affect your dating life.)

If you want to control peoples' perceptions by managing the stuff in your office, read Gosling's book: Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You.

2. If you are pregnant.

It's illegal for someone at work to ask if you are pregnant. So give a dishonest answer because you are cornered. You can't say, "That's an illegal question."

(Don't tell me you want to change the world by telling them it's illegal. Women do not change the world this way. Women change the world by gaining power to make the rules.)

Women have no idea what they will want to do after the baby comes. We all know that. So why do we make women announce before hand what they are doing? But since we're all playing the game, say you're coming back. Full time. Really fast.

If you are thinking of revealing a pregnancy early, remember this: When a guy is dealing with alcoholism, or a divorce, or a kid getting kicked out of school, he does not announce it to the company because it might affect his ability to work. So why do women feel the need to announce a pregnancy before they have to?

3. If you are job hunting

Who isn't thinking about what they want to do next? Only losers who have no vision for their lives.

People in their 20s start looking for their next job on day three of a new job. And we know that the most desirable employees, even at the executive level, are those who are employed. Which means that the top tier of employees are all job hunting while they have a job.

Your boss would give you very little notice if you were getting laid off. You can do the same for your boss. And anyway, what is your boss going to do with information that you are looking for another job? Nothing. There is nothing to do except stop giving you interesting work. Or fire you. Both bad for you.

So be a good employee, and do good work while you job hunt. Besides, it's very hard to get a good, new job if you are not doing good work in your current job.

So why bother telling anyone? It's assumed– by any wise manager– that you're always looking.


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more.