How to Tell If Your Boss is Lying

Last Updated Sep 2, 2010 11:09 PM EDT

I'd like to tell you about BossTruth, an iPhone app that can easily, and from across the room, tell you with 90% accuracy when your boss is lying to you. I'd like to, but I can't because such a thing doesn't exist. But there are some telltale signs you can look for which indicate the boss is not being entirely truthful, and that'll have to be good enough for now.

Psychology Today recently chronicled the results of a Stanford Business School study in which a pair of researchers reviewed the transcripts of 30,000 quarterly earnings conference calls. From that, they linked the language used in the speeches to whether or not the firms later "materially restated their earnings." The findings are fascinating. Here's what the liars did:

  • They used more general, less specific language.
  • They made fewer references to shareholder value.
  • They amped up the use of superlatives.
  • They used less first person and more third person.
  • There were more verbal pauses -- ums and ahs.
  • They used more swearing.
You can check out the entire report in PDF form, and then try to gauge the sincerity of your division VP the next time she speaks at your all-hands meeting. And if you do find an iPhone app that does this automatically, please let me know.