Little White Lies
We’ve all heard it.
“You didn’t get that? I sent it to you yesterday.”
“Oh yeah, I called him, but the reception was bad, and then I got cut off on the metro. It probably didn’t even show up as a missed call.”
“Ugh, my computer isn’t working right now, so I don’t know if I’ll have it to you by the end of the day.”
Workplace politics can make even the most seasoned veteran the victim of bad habits. Stress, impossible deadlines, impossible coworkers – these contributing factors have plagued all of us at one time or another, leading to coping mechanisms that may be hurting our performances. The general tendencies of leaving things to the last minute, over-reliance on technology, and a general lackadaisical attitude about getting things done promptly are some of the most common issues that lead to bad habits. These can lead to equally poor behaviors such as misplacing blame, disorganization, or lack of responsibility when the water is hot. The most egregious of these habits, however, is one that is often overlooked – the little white lie.
The interesting thing about the LWL is that, unlike other bad habits, this one starts off innocently enough. It may begin with small things – an omission, a missed meeting, a late morning. Things for which we have an excuse waiting in the wings. Sometimes the excuses are true, but sometimes it’s easier to pawn off responsibility. When one has already been late two times in a week, the third time is an embarrassment, a reflection of our own inability to properly manage our time. Thus, the LWL. It’s such an easy evasion to displace answerability with a harmless fib. Or is it?
The truth is, blindness to our failings often leaves us clueless as to how others perceive us. The LWL is particularly detrimental because it’s a constant, slow chip away at the wall of our reliability. But because the damage is infinitesimal, we don’t see the cracks until the damage has already been done, and the castle is crumbling. The damage to our reputation, our trustworthiness to others and to ourselves is so undermined that suddenly, the errors we have made are no longer the singular, unimportant issues – they are the entire character and professional assessments that have found us lacking.
Taking responsibility for one’s actions is an necessary life lesson. It’s important to impress upon one’s children, it’s expected when dealing with people in our everyday lives, and it’s equally important in the workplace. The LWL is an easily banished habit. Organization is the number one technique to combating this parasitic tendency, but personal culpability is just as crucial. Choosing to accept the consequences of small misdemeanors in the office environment may seem difficult at first, but the truth is, with time, we actually become more accountable to others when we make a conscious effort to remain honest with ourselves.
Image from http://hollowtreetales.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/all-our-many-secrets-by-lisa/