Is lying at work permissible?

(Moneywatch) COMMENTARY Generally, lying in the workplace is a bad idea. Fibs big and small can trash your credibility to your co-workers, clients, and company. But is it sometimes smart to pull a Pinocchio?

Workplace and career expert Brad Karsh, president of JB Training Solutions, says that there are a few situations in which fibbing might be fine -- with care. "In general, it is never okay to lie at work. One of the few priceless things you have of value at work is your integrity and your word," says Karsh, who conducts corporate training workshops at major companies including Discover (DFS), Kraft (KFT), and Walgreen (WAG). Here are Karsh's key exceptions to that rule:

Protecting confidentiality. Do the ends justify the means? Perhaps, if telling a small lie rather than the whole truth (and nothing but) might help your company and protect private information. "For example, you are in a management meeting, and afterwards a colleague asks what the meeting was about. You would never say, 'We were talking about layoffs. Pack your bags, Phil!' Instead you could say, 'We were talking about planning issues,' " Karsh says. In this case, you are maintaining your loyalty to your company.

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Maintaining a positive relationship. Striving to get along with your manager or fellow employees might lead you to lie, if only to be polite, Karsh says. If your boss asks what you think of a hideous tie or blouse, or your co-worker asks you to attend her 7-year-old's first violin performance at 9 a.m. Saturday morning, little lies like "it really suits you" or "already have plans" are clearly more likely to foster collegiality than unvarnished truths like "it's hideous" or "I'd much rather sleep in."

Over-delivering. As the saying goes, it's always better to under-promise and beat expectations than over-promise and under-deliver, especially when it comes to accomplishing a task on time. "When promising a deadline, you might say, 'I can have it to you Thursday' even if you [expect] you'll have it to them on Wednesday," Karsh says. That way, you'll take a bit of pressure off yourself and probably surpass expectations.

Do you ever lie at work? Please sign in and share in the comments section below.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Sailko

  • Amy Levin-Epstein On Twitter»

    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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