Everyone lies. You might consider yourself saintly but you won’t make it through the day without stretching the truth. We look at reasons why you might want to consider something other than absolute candor in the workplace.
In this episode:
- Does the truth put my job in jeopardy?
- Should I take the blame for a teammate?
- What if I don’t want to socialize with my boss or people in the office?
- Lying to protect the feelings of people we care about.
- Why self-preservation is undefeated.
- Lying to get out of unnecessary meetings.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
Perfectly Acceptable Reasons To Lie At Work
If grandma burns a batch of cookies and asks you how they taste, you choke them down and you smile and you say, “Delicious, grandma.” If your boss asks you why your eyes are so red in the early morning meeting, you don’t tell them that you closed the bar out the night before. There are some things that you don’t need to be completely honest about.
In this episode, we have a blast talking about the times at work where it’s perfectly acceptable to lie. I hope you enjoy this as much as we enjoyed making this tongue-in-cheek episode. If you like our show, hit subscribe and follow along. If you’re one of our long-time readers and you have not given us a five-star review, please take the time to do it. It means a lot to us, and I’m not lying.
We’re talking about acceptable reasons to lie. I want to start by saying I don’t care how much you go to church and how saintly you think you are. You might think you’re the most honest person in the world. The truth is you lie so much more than you think you do at work. It’s ridiculous, and I’m hoping to open up your eyes to that and help you feel better about it by the end of this. The one thing that sparked me to think about it, a friend of mine invested in a company. He asked my advice about it after he had sent the check.
You’re not asking someone’s advice after you’re 100% committed, and there’s no plan B. You’re already all the way. He invested in a vodka company, but this vodka company made brown vodka. As I’m thinking about it, I’m like, “I would never buy a brown vodka that would look like it was bad and dirty vodka.” It wasn’t distilled. Vodka is clear for a reason. This is what people want, but he had all these reasons why he did it.
Instead of destroying him and say, “That’s the goddamn stupidest idea ever thought. You’ve got to get your money back. You’re going to lose all $50,000.” I nodded and then I thought, “That’s interesting. That’s got a chance,” and it was a lie, but he had invested $50,000, and what good was it for me to tell him that you might as well have lit that shit on fire. You’re not getting it back. There was no good of doing that damn at that point. I said, “Maybe that’s got a chance. It was a flat-out lie, but I felt like the alternative was mean-spirited if I’d had done it. Let him find that out in two years that he lost his money.”If you have no couth, you are limited. Click To Tweet
It’s so funny that you said that. You used word-for-word what I wrote. In my notes, I put, “No good will come out of this.” When you lie in your career or anything else, it’s because no good will come of it, and it comes with wisdom and age. We’ve talked many times. I’ve got two very young kids. My son says some of the craziest shit.
One of Ian’s and my favorite people on the planet was my granddad. He would always say things that would put you on blast like, “Gramps, how are you?” He’s like, “Good. Where did you come from?” “The gym.” “You work out?” “I try and work out a lot. I try and stay in shape.” His quote to me was, “I’ve seen you fitter.” He did not care if any good would come with it. He was an honest broker, but he was 86 and he didn’t give a damn. He had no chips left on the table for anybody to care.
Let’s talk about granddad. There’s a small niche of people, including myself, Nicole, your family and some in your family who loved him. It was a small circle because he didn’t give a shit about offending a lot of people, so his circle was small and he also put a pretty low ceiling of his career by approaching life that way. You do have some huge admirers when you are radically honest about everything. Some people find it refreshing, but the vast majority of people are totally freaked out about it, and it is a little career-limiting.
You stumbled ass-backward into something. We had a conversation about radical candor and honesty, and we talked about the guy who wrote the book, Radical Honesty. Literally, you can’t find it. It’s ranked 654,000 on Amazon’s books. Mine comes for higher ranked than this guy’s book because of the fact that he has absolutely no clout, and if you have no clout, you are limited. Everyone lies every day. Does this dress make me look fat? Think twice before you answer that honestly.
One hundred percent, especially if you don’t look good in dressing yourself, which Frank does not look good in a dress.
Does this dress make me look fat? No. Eyesight does.
No. Your face does. We’re going to go through all perfectly acceptable reasons to lie at work. The first one is when being honest doesn’t help your career. That’s about as blunt as you can be. There are feelings that you’re trying to pay attention to at work. There are politics to play. There are some things you don’t say at work if you care about your career. Being radically candid is going to get you radically kicked out the door. There are some things you do. If you don’t respect your boss, you can’t look him or her in the eyes and say, “I don’t respect you.” You can’t. Unless you want to leave, and that’s great. Good job, hard ass. You found yourself out the door.
If you found something better, great. If you don’t respect their decisions, if you think the company’s direction is completely wrong, you don’t buy into the CEO’s big initiative, that’s a career killer. When I was at GE, I’ve said this many times, I think Six Sigma is the biggest bunch of bullshit I’ve ever seen, but Jack Welch dedicated three chapters of his famous leadership book, The Six Sigma.
I wasn’t about to raise my hand and be like, “This is a bunch of dumbass statistical jibber-jabber.” I would be like, “This is changing the game.” I would go along with it because it didn’t serve me. If I wanted to work at GE, and I did, and there were plenty of other things I liked about the company, crushing Jack Welch’s number one initiative was not going to be great for my career.
This is generational too. What you hear about Millennials is how hard they are to manage and how different they are from generations ago like our generation. When we came to work, what we did is we shut our mouths. We grin, bear it, and we went along with it. What you see generationally is kids are less willing to put up with that. If you’re on the other side of this and you are a company owner like I am, or a leader of people, you’ve got to put an agenda together that people can get behind and you have to understand these things. You have to juxtapose it with what do people think.
I’ll give an example of something. I’ve been a part of initiatives that I thought were dog shit, terrible and bad ideas. I don’t like them, and the way that I engender myself to the staff is I pull a small group in and say clearly this is the direction we’re going in. Does anyone want to quit? Nobody would say yes. We got to sell this publicly, but internally we all know this is crap. How are we going to interpret what we’re being told? How do we still succeed and find the metrics that we need to do good jobs?
We all get our bonus and what we’re here for, which is compensation, and do it in a way that we can buy into it. It’s like a splinter cell. We have a small splinter cell. We don’t make it terribly public, and we motivate around this point that we think is crap, but we find the silver lining or something that we’re going to drive towards. That, to me, is the way that you can take something that’s a bad message. Not make it terribly public, but make it public enough where you get enough support. Where you can still do a good job, get the compensation, be honest a little bit with yourself and get through it.
What I’m saying here on this first point, I don’t think either of us was yes-man in our career or ever have been. I would certainly push back on the initiative, but there are some things where you can see there’s too much momentum and money invested in this. I’m not going to change it by saying how stupid it is over and over. All I’m going to do is make some people pissed. I got to try to make the best of this. That doesn’t mean don’t push back and don’t respectfully say, “I’m not so sure about this,” but you’ve got to be smart about it. At some point, understand a decision in stone, I’ve got to get on board with it or leave the company and find something else to do.
This is critical. Where are you in the pecking order? Did you graduate college or are you an intern or new? Are you in the bottom of the barrel or in the company for less than 90 days? You do not have the clout to start running your mouth about something you fully don’t understand. If you think something is off base or not in line with what you want it to look like, I think it’s smart to do this quietly and talk to a couple of your peers who are in reasonably the same boat as you and have that conversation.
If you’re higher up in the organization like Ian and I are, we’re our last stops in corporations where I am now. If we don’t like something, what I do is I get a group of people and we talk about it at the top level and say, “Is this what we want and not what we want?” You’ve got to know where you are in the pecking order, depending on what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it because it could be a career killer. If you came out and you’ve been here for 90 days, and you’re like, “Six Sigma is stupid.” You’re going to get your head lopped off. Where if you’re a three-decade employee who’s producing at the very top end, then you quietly question these things. It’s very different.
Frank’s company is doing an initiative that is pretty cool. The whole company is investing in community service, planting trees, and doing a number of different things. It’s a cool initiative. It would be a very different thing if one of Frank’s top executives, Eddie and Angelo, came to him and said, “Everyone is busy. We need to back off this for six months or not do this,” versus someone he hired months ago coming up to Frank and saying, “This whole community service things are a bunch of self-serving crap.”
That person is out. Frank wouldn’t have patience for it, but if one of the guys that have been with you for five years came and said, “Frank, we’ve got to stop doing this for a year. It’s not the time. Everyone is too busy with other things.” He would listen to it because the pecking order is a little different and they’ve earned the right to attack something that big.
Nassim Taleb wrote a book called The Black Swan. What he starts talking about in The Black Swan, the first 30 pages are all about 9/11. What he talks about 9/11 is, “If on 09/10/2001, the FAA required the doors that are in every cockpit now, 9/11 never happens and it goes away.” It’s hard to quantify things that don’t happen. It’s very hard to see it and people don’t put a lot of stock in it because it didn’t happen, so it isn’t real. There’s no visceral thing there.
If you want to not lie or create a culture where people don’t lie, there needs to be honesty, and that needs to be brokered. I’m going to use the same example Ian talked about, community service. We were at a fulcrum. We set a goal. We were behind the goal. It was hard at the beginning of the year to do community service events because COVID was still involved and we couldn’t do things publicly. People weren’t vaccinated yet. You couldn’t do group things, which is really hard.
Sitting in July, we’re 35% of the goal. I asked my senior leaders, “Do we need to change this goal?” The senior leader said, “Let’s do an honest survey with the group and see what they want to do.” Younger people love community service. They love giving back and sustainability. We did a vote and the supermajority was like, “We want to make this. It’s important to us,” but people aren’t lying because I went to the top. The top did a straw poll. The straw poll said, “Do this publicly.” Publicly, we created the poll and people were like, “Let’s do it and figure this shit.”
What we have is we have a culture where people can speak honestly and we know to do it from the top down or from the bottom up, both ways, so it prevents people. It’s like preventing 9/11 by having that door. You don’t see that stuff, but you can foster a culture of honesty with moves. For big companies like GE, it’s easy to either not have an honest culture or for the real message to be missed because of Jack Welch’s fifteen rungs above Ian when this is all happening with Six Sigma. It gets filtered down. It’s a game of telephone with kids. There’s more room for there to be an opportunity to not be honest.
Number two, covering for a teammate. This is the snitches get stitches point of one is okay to lie. I’m sure this happened to you a lot of times, where someone underneath you made a decision that wasn’t a good decision and it pissed off your boss. They were like, “Who made this decision?” I had more cachet in the company. I had more chips on the table with my boss, so I would say that was my decision even though it wasn’t. I was learning about it because I knew my boss already didn’t like that person who worked for me but I did, and I hadn’t built them up enough yet. I didn’t want them to be scared of failure, so I would say, “That’s all on me. I made that decision.” Knowing it wouldn’t hurt my career because I was in much better standing than the person underneath me that screwed up.The leader is the one who takes the blame, so others are allowed to accomplish. Click To Tweet
I’ve done that a lot of times where I’ve said, “That’s on me. I made that decision,” then I go talk to that person and be like, “You’ve got to cover these things with me. I didn’t know you were doing that.” It’s because I wanted to cover for them and buy them some time. That’s not saying I’m this altruistic guy. That’s still a little selfish because I knew that person had potential and they could do great things for me and my team at some point. They didn’t have the cachet yet to screw up for someone higher up, so I would take the hit.
It’s also good management and good leadership. I had two issues arise with a very important employee. Two mistakes on two separate items. We were on a public phone call with an outsider, and the answer was, “That’s my fault. That’s on me. Blame me. Tell them it’s my fault. Frank screwed up.” I didn’t screw up. I’m not the one who did it, but it doesn’t matter. The whole goal here is I could fire this person and start over. That’s not going to do any good. We have to have a private conversation about how we need to present from the inside out and that can be handled. This is what leadership is. I’ve said this on this show. I say this all the time. I’ve gotten to a level in my life where I get credit for nothing. All I do is get blamed.
That is my job. I am the one who takes the blame because others are allowed to accomplish it, and when something bad happens, we blame him and take that as a pincushion. This is how you cover and grow. What happens behind closed doors? Do we both agree or do we have a problem? Do we both see a solution to fix this going forward? Do we have something here that we can learn and grow from? Will we make this mistake again? Hopefully, the answer is no, or bring it to my attention first. These are things that you do. This is how you build loyalty, honesty and things, so people don’t have to lie.
I would also say, and I had to do these many times, if you’re in a sales job and someone screws up on your internal team that’s not customer-facing, someone misses a deadline, forgets to call someone, and someone puts the wrong data in for a delivery, it always is in your best interest to tell the customer that’s on you as a salesperson.
“I didn’t do a good enough job communicating this. That’s on me. I wasn’t following up enough.” The reason why it behooves you to cover for a teammate, tell a lie and say it was your fault is you want the customer always to believe that you, as the salesperson, are in complete control. When things go right and go wrong, you’re in control. They’re dealing with a decision-maker, someone who can get things done because they trusted you to give an order to. They should trust that when things don’t go well, it’s also on you as well.
I was always a big fan of no matter what engineer under me. A GE screwed up or if someone on my team messed up a loan or something, I was never big into throwing that person under the bus with a customer. I always would say, “That’s my fault.” Even if I was learning of it, I’d say, “That’s on me. You should blame me.” That also engenders loyalty from the people on your team that would make them want to get my deals. Whenever a new sale will come up, a project manager will raise their hands, “I’ll take it. Is that Ian’s?” It’s because I always protected them from the wrath of the customer, which I should do because I’m getting paid commission, and they weren’t.
Everything is a moving economy. There’s always a sliding scale of things are going. You’re in 1 of 2 positions. You’re in a position where you need grace or you’re in the position where you get grace or you give the grace. It’s continual. When you’re new, someone needs to cover you for your ass, but when you’re experienced, you may need to cover for somebody else. That’s how this goes.
Let’s use an example. You’re a new manager and you have a new employee. It’s your job to cover for their ass when they screw up, but if you’re a new manager and that person screws up, it’s your senior manager’s job to protect you to upstairs. That’s how this all works in a continuum, and it’s going on constantly.
If done properly, the lies can be mitigated and the responsibility gets pushed to the right person. We use the NFL. We did a Tom Brady Podcast the last time. In the NFL, what happens in a lot of instances is the quarterback gets blamed. Is it the quarterback’s fault, the organization’s, team’s, or they can’t draft an offensive line? In some instance, it’s hard to protect people but incorporations, it’s usually pretty easy to do so if you’re being honest and looking at where does the grace need to be delivered.
I’ll leave that one with a funny example. I was on campus at Purdue recruiting with my buddy, McCauley, and we were with our boss. We went out the night before with our boss. Our boss peeled off early, and Ian stayed out way too late, later than John. John stayed out with me pretty late, but I went next level. I didn’t show up and I was supposed to be there for college recruiting in the morning.
John is covering for me, and every time our boss comes out from an interview, he’s like, “Where is Ian?” John is like, “He went to get a newspaper. He’s getting us coffees and bagels, and he would sprint off and try to get ahold of me again.” I didn’t roll up until 10:30, but by now, John already lied like the cocks crowed three times. He’s already lied multiple times to our boss to cover for me. I come in and my eyes are all red. My boss comes sniffing my body. He’s like, “Did you roll up?” I’m like, “Yeah. I did.” I’m right out of the gate. I’m like, “I slept in. I was out too late.” John is looking at me like, “I’m going to kill you. I lied three times for your ass.”
The cool part of the story is our boss loved it because we were new teammates. Mac and I, we’re best buds now, but we weren’t at the time. We were peers and he loved the fact that we were becoming a team enough where he wouldn’t snitch on a teammate. He thought it was cool. He’s pissed at me obviously, but John didn’t get in trouble because Bob thought that was good teamwork, that he was covering for someone who obviously screwed up in a pretty big way.
I remember that. That’s funny. I thought of this while we were talking about this. I was on a recruiting trip and it was somebody that I didn’t know. We were both the recruiters for the company and I had to use the bathroom like I had to go terribly, but the place we were at didn’t have a stall. He’s like, “I’ll wait for you. I’ll stand up front.” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” He goes, “If somebody comes in, I’ll tell him you need a minute, and I’ll play the doorman.” I go, “Are you serious?” He goes, “Yeah.”
This guy and I are still friends. Years later, we’d met and this is something that most normal people wouldn’t do for you. Literally, watch out so you could take a dump in peace in a place without a stall door. That’s pretty high praise. He and I both jumped in. We got along. We’d had a couple of cocktails. We were pretty friendly. We were similarly aged. I looked at that and I was like, “That’s pretty cool. This guy did something that is right off the bat.”
Number three, when it’s not the boss’s damn business. This falls into politics and religion. If you have strong views on gun control and your boss has a very big gun advocate, it’s probably not the best place. You don’t need to go out and say, “I own seven guns and tell that lie,” but you probably don’t want to be as strident about your opinions in that place, especially if you know they feel differently. I think social life is a big one for a long time. I was a very young manager. I was a manager at 24. My boss would ask, “What’d you do over the weekend?” Twenty-four-year-old who’s single in Chicago over the weekend is doing nothing but drinking.
I wouldn’t tell him that. I go, “It was a pretty relaxed weekend. Actually, I watched the cubs and went for a couple of runs.” I tell him the couple of things that seemed like a 50-year-old might do on the weekend, and leave out the hundreds of things I did that were debaucheries in nature because what’s the point of telling him everything I did over the weekend. There was no point in doing that. That did not serve me, so I would lie and be like, “It was a laidback weekend,” when I was in Vegas, a rehab Sunday the night before, and I could barely stand.When you're new, someone needs to cover you for your ass, but when you're experienced, you may need to cover for somebody else. Click To Tweet
This is in my twenties, and there was a woman that I had a major crush on. It was in the early part of wanting to date her. We didn’t know each other. I was talking to her and she’s like, “I got to go for a run. I got some stuff to do.” I’m like, “Okay, cool.” We hang up. We talked a day or two later, and we started dating. Months later, I asked her, “Do you remember that night you told me that you need to run? We’ve been dating for six months now but you don’t run.” She’s like, “I know. I have a date. I needed to get off the phone with you, but I wanted you to want to date me. I didn’t want to tell you I was going on a date. I wanted to tell you I was going on runs so you think I was fit than not.” It’s perfect. There’s no good will come of this. Everyone dates. We’re not dating yet. It’s a little white lie. In your career, you need a little white lie every once in a while. It’s probably good. I was telling you in this story.
I consider you among the most honest dudes I’ve ever met in my entire life, and yet you tell white lies all the freaking time. If it’s important and it’s serious, your integrity always sticks out, but you’re like no one else. You’re going to protect people’s feelings and do the right thing. You’re going to tell some white lies.
Yes. We can move on.
Number four, you don’t want to socialize with your boss or coworkers. This is absolutely a time where you should lie. One hundred percent. The thing to say is not, “I spent nine hours with you. A-holes all day, and I can’t imagine spending another two hours with you at happy hour. That sounds horrible. My personal life is way more important than this company.”
That’s a good time to slip a little. I love your story about running. “I would love to go to that happy hour. That sounds good, but my son has a baseball game, or I would love to go to that Redskins game with you on Sunday blast, but my mom is in town.” I almost never socialize personally with my manager or people in the office. I would do it a little bit, but for the most part, I always came up with a polite little white lie rather than telling them I don’t want to do that.
It’s funny because I’ve gotten more honest with this as I’ve gotten older. At first, I thought it was cool to be around the boss when I was young. As I’ve gotten older, I don’t have a boss or anybody now, but I think of it from the other perspective of hanging out with people and third parties in a lot of instances. I’m in a different spot in my life. I talk about different things. I do different things. I have different goals and pursuits. It doesn’t mean I’m right, you’re wrong or vice versa. It’s just different. You think of polite ways to give yourself a little bit of distance.
What I think is this. If you’re a psychopath or something, they’re probably going to figure it out. If you can do the job and you’re good at what you do. You breed loyalty, you’ve got good camaraderie with teammates and you can get all that done inside of the hours of the job. That’s great, but you can also distance yourself.
What tends to happen is there are usually factions inside of a business. The best thing is the admin staff in my company all hangout. They’re all friends and do things together on the weekends. They don’t do a lot of stuff with me. I don’t get invited. It doesn’t hurt my feelings. We’re just in different spots. That’s okay too, but how do you do it?
There’s something I hear, and there are two ways to react to it, “So-and-so and I got together this weekend. We got our kids together. We went to a park. We had a great time.” I wasn’t invited. Does that hurt my feelings or am I thrilled that people inside the company are getting along well enough to do things socially outside? If you’re a selfish, short-minded person, you’re going to think, “They didn’t invite me. Fuck that.” The other side of it is, they didn’t invite me. That’s incredible they invited each other. That’s cool. We’re building a culture. Those are the things that you can look at, and I think are positive.
In The Office, Michael is always asking Jim to go out for beers. It’s a running gag for ten seasons. Jim always has something like, “That’s odd.” It’s always a little white lie, and Michael was always trying to catch him in a white lie because he wants to hang out with Jim so bad, but Jim doesn’t want to hang out but he sees him all day. He does it because he doesn’t want to hurt his feelings and say, “Michael, I don’t want to hang out with you.” That’s okay. You tell little ones like that. I think this is also a pecking order thing. The higher up you go, the more honest you can be of, “I don’t do that stuff anymore. I got a family, stuff and got to get home too.”
You tell the truth. You get a little tired. When you’re younger and you’re trying to work your way up the chain, the expectation is you do more of that socializing that you go out, then you do anything you can to be seen, heard and build camaraderie. My recommendation would be if you absolutely can, you should try to go do all the extracurricular stuff. If your career matters or you want to move up, but if there’s something that’s personal going on in your life and you don’t want to be there, opt-out. Find a way to say whatever will accept it the easiest.
Before we move off of this point, I think this is worth talking. As I get older and older, one-off experiences mean less and less. What I mean by that is I’m less impressionable. It’s hard to surprise me. Events aren’t as important as they were. I don’t get this excited about stuff. I’ve seen it, I’ve done it, and I’ve felt it. I’ve had those experiences, but when you’re younger, things matter.
A one-off event, doing things, and building camaraderie, those things do matter. The right balance, especially if you’re fun, funny and quirky, you can increase your brand by picking the right spots to do things and to show your incredibleness. What I’m driving at is memories do help form things. Extracurriculars, when you see someone step up and do things incredible, put currency into your name and it’s real.
If you do have a desire to advance, picking the right things to go to is sensible. Showing that you’re diverse and dynamic help. Managers in rooms with closed doors talk about, “Did you see what this person did at the charitable event? Did you see the organization and these things?” You don’t have to do all of them, but every once in a while when you flash, it can help you. Picking and choosing strategically is a smart thing to do.
Put it another way. If you’re climbing the ladder and you get offered a chance to spend personal time with the decision-maker, it’s pretty silly to pass it up. Find ways to do it, especially if you can show your personality. The people that get promoted are people promoting people that they like spending time with. If you can prove you’re someone who is fun to spend time with outside of the office, as well as in the office, you’re going to move up faster, but once you get to a place where you’re satisfied, you don’t have to go to that stuff anymore.
Here’s another example. We were doing something. It was myself, a realtor, one of my managers and a relatively new person. We asked him to do something inside of the work framework like, “We’re doing a call. It’s going to be on Zoom. You should log in. We think you’ll get something out of this.” The person did a few things. Number one, he showed up on time, took notes and asked questions. He was engaged. It was very obvious that they weren’t looking at their phone or checking email.
They were involved in the conversation, and within fifteen minutes, the conversation was ending, and an email was sent, “Thank you for the invite. This is what I learned. This is how I’m going to implement it. Thanks again. That’s incredible.” Those are the things that were not social events. This was a work event, but that’s the type of stuff that is memorable to your manager and its textbook on how to do it right.
Number five, in a negotiation. By nature, salespeople get a bad rap, but by nature, you are not going to negotiate with someone by telling them the God honest truth about everything right out of the gate. It’s a game of poker. You’re hiding some information. No one ever starts negotiation by saying, “I would like to get $10,000, but if I’m being honest, the absolute drop dead, I would take as $2,000.”
No one has ever said that that’s any good at all in sales. You’d be fired pretty soon if you let every conversation with the lowest price your company would be willing to cut. If we’re being honest here, if you’re taking a black or white approach of honesty and negotiation, why not put all of your cards 100% off the table? It’s because you’d be a lousy business person if you did that. If anyone who’s ever negotiated anything is withholding information and not sharing everything 100%, that’s part of the game of negotiation.
When I was young and impressionable, there was a manager with who we work. One of the guys that we used to have as a senior-level manager who was many rungs were new from me and above me used to say, “Every great salesperson has a little larceny in their heart. It doesn’t mean they’re thieves or they’re bad people, but they are capable of a little bit of lying, positioning, and posturing to sell.” That’s the way it works. It’s the way it works in relationships, marriage, kids and managers. Ian and I do it with each other. There’s posturing. Is there anything good that’s going to come of this honesty? Let’s move on to the next point. That’s life.
Another example is this. I was a huge fan of Hamilton, and it was a changed Broadway. I saw an interview with the person who invented it, came up with it and wrote it, Lin-Manuel Miranda. He was writing and he talked to somebody who had multiple hits on Broadway. He goes, “Let me ask you a question. Are you writing to write or are you writing to write a play?” He goes, “Write a play.”
What that means is to leave a lot of stuff on the editing room floor. Don’t deal with it, negotiate, talk about it, and don’t dedicate time to it because it doesn’t get you on Broadway. When Ian and I do deals, we leave a lot of stuff out. We hit on the major highlights. We don’t do anything unethical, but is this confusing? Is this going to help the point? Is this going to drive it of what we want to drive at? If the answer is no, end it. I think that’s an overview of all of this, with negotiating especially.
Number six, protecting someone’s feelings who says something stupid. This was your agenda item. I’m going to let you go ahead and lead this one.
In all seriousness, this happens all the time. I have a young son. He’s constantly saying things that are nuts like you’re blabbering. I encourage him. I’d say, “What else are you saying?” Get him to come out with it. In a lot of instances, people will say things because of immaturity or inexperience. What I think of is I can put this person on blast but I was 25 once and I said things that 45-year-olds probably thought that’s dumb, inexperienced or that shows this person’s lack of worldliness, and they were gracious to me.A lot of lying is just about protecting other people's feelings in general. Click To Tweet
What I might do instead of putting them on blast, sometimes I’ll put them on blast because it’s fun, and because I’m human and it happens. The other time is, that’s an interesting perspective. Why do you have it? Talk a little bit about it but be mindful of this. If you are full of all kinds of crazy ideas that come off that other people will think is dumb, read the room and ratchet it back. Otherwise, you’re going to find yourself being an outsider pretty fast.
Whenever a manager says, “That’s a great idea, but have you thought of this?” They don’t think it was a great idea. They think it was a very stupid idea, but they’re being nice to you. They don’t think it’s stupid. They think it’s ignorant. It’s lacking experience when someone says something like that to you. It’s happened to me plenty of times in my career where I came up with an idea that hundreds of other people had thought of that wasn’t a good idea before me and a manager was nice enough to say, “I love that thought,” even though they don’t love the thought. “Here’s some more perspective on something.” I think a lot of lying is about protecting other people’s feelings in general. Protecting them from not telling them the truth because it’s going to be hurtful to tell them the truth.
It’s not part of the greater good. You’re not getting anywhere better. You’re going to be a dick to be a dick. You don’t need to dig in on the point. We’ve all seen it when someone being a jerk to be a jerk, and it’s so obvious and it’s so painful. Sometimes you watch it and it can be entertaining, but then it gets to a point where it’s grading and you tune it out because it’s so over the top. As a good leader and a good manager, you redirect it, you ask other questions, or you pull someone aside and say, “In this meeting, you went a bit overboard. As your leader, I would think that these are conversations we should have off the record, behind closed doors or not with the whole group.” That’s good leadership. A lot of these things happen. You just nodded and moving on.
Frank mentioned the Hamilton thing. That was one of the funniest weekends of my life. It was my 40th birthday, and Frank surprised me and got tickets to Hamilton. At that time, it was hard to get Hamilton tickets. They were expensive as hell. If I’m being honest, I didn’t like Hamilton. I had an amazing night. I had a lot of fun. Frank loves Hamilton. He’d been listening to the soundtrack for months. He knew every word of the song. I was bored as hell. I didn’t like the show much but I had a lot of fun with my friends, and I was acting like a crazy man. Afterward, when he’s like, “What do you think?” I’m like, “That’s one of the best shows I ever saw.”
I didn’t believe it, but I didn’t feel like getting into it with them right then because it would have hurt his feelings, he’d spend a lot of money, and I was having such a great weekend. What was the point of telling him, “I think Hamilton is overrated?” I didn’t say that. I was like, “That was amazing. Frank. I love it just like you did.” It’s because there was no point in telling him the truth about, “I’m glad that’s over. Now we can go to a bar.” What was the point of doing that? He put so much into it and the truth was I focused on this is one of the best weekends I’ve ever had. I’m having so much fun with my friends and having a great time, but to attack something he loved at that moment, there was no point, so I did it.
There is something else too. I don’t know if you remember this, but we walked in and I did my best to get good seats. Ian is particular, and I wanted to have good seats. We walked in and the seats were not as good as I anticipated. The first thing he had said to me, “It’s not a bad seat in the house, Franky.” He knew they sucked. I knew they sucked.
Three rows from the back wall. I was like, “We got the good ones. These are great. I can see the whole stage. This is perfect.”
The overall weekend and getting into an argument after Hamilton about Thor being drunk. It was a blast, but that’s it.
Number seven, when you’re job hunting. Let’s be as straight as we can here. Both the interviewer and the interviewee are lying in an interview. There are lots of little lies that you’re telling. Nothing egregious, but both sides are withholding information. I think on a number of things with job hunting, you don’t need to tell your boss you’re looking for a job. You don’t need to tell them, “I’m looking.” It’s because some companies suck. They’ll cut you. They’ll get rid of you right there as soon as you say you’re looking. You don’t have to look out for anyone but yourself. Let’s say you were fired from a job. I can say this. Between Frank and I, we’ve interviewed over a couple of thousand people.
We talked about this before this episode. Neither of us can remember someone outright saying, “That company fired me because I screwed up and wasn’t performing.” The truth is 50% of people we’ve interviewed probably have been fired. We always ask questions, “Why did you leave this company?” No one ever says, “That company fired me. It’s a funny story. I forgot to sign a few documents. That company lost a couple of million dollars. It’s totally on me.” No one’s ever done that. No one has ever said, “I was fired.” When you’re job hunting, you have to withhold some information because if you’re completely candid about everything, you’re not getting a job.
Some of it falls into the category of self-preservation. One of my friends has a great quote, “Self-preservation is undefeated,” and it’s the truth. Whenever push comes to shove, people usually protect themselves first. It’s a survival instinct that goes back 100,000 years. That’s where you’re at like, “I can’t flagellate myself with this.”
It’s funny because I’ve told some embarrassing stories or some very critical things of myself in interviews. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it hasn’t. What I’ve come up with is a narrative that includes other stories that maybe aren’t as damning but are equally as effective in the interview. It’s like editing. It’s like the Hamilton thing. Leave it on the cutting room floor. It’s not interview-worthy.
I made a couple of mistakes at this company, but let me tell you this. I made these mistakes, but this is what I’ve learned and this is what I’ve done. That’s how you pivot it from something bad to something good. That’s something that an interviewer will understand. If you were the most incredible employee who never made a mistake, you wouldn’t be in my office interviewing. You’d be the CEO of that other company. There’s an honesty that comes into you. You’re interviewing for this particular position. We all know that.
Number eight, along these lines, is when you give your notice when you leave a company. This one falls under taking the high road. Tom Brady leaves the New England Patriots after twenty years and people ask him why. He says, “It was time for a change. I wanted to see if I could do this in a different system.” He says a bunch of high-level stuff.
Now, books are coming out where all of the people around Brady are spilling the beans that he wasn’t getting along with Belichick. He didn’t feel respected and feel like they gave him enough input. None of it came out of Brady’s mouth because of him trashing his organization, owner and coach of twenty years, where he had six Super Bowl rings. If all that had come out, he would have seemed like a pretentious ass. It wouldn’t have looked good for him, and he knew that, so he said, “It was time for a change,” and he took the high road.
I think that’s always the best way to go when you leave a company is to say, “I had a lot of good times here. I learned so much. I’m grateful. It’s time for a change.” Even if that’s not completely true, there’s no need to trash your boss because most people leave for a boss. If you’re smart, you’re not telling everyone the boss is terrible as you’re out the door. There’s no reason to do it. It makes you seem petty.
I’m on two separate things. Brady was probably somewhat miserable when he was in New England. Belichick is tough to deal with. They had salary cap constraints. There was a bunch of problems. Who the hell wants to live in Massachusetts and playing a Winter League in the middle of it? It was awful. It was about a bunch of bad things. As many bad things were happening, this team drafted him in the sixth round where no one else did. If they don’t draft him, he’s selling insurance, so there’s some gratitude.
In addition to that, when you stop and look at it, it’s like, “I’m in my second year in the League, we won a Super Bowl. By my eighth year in a League, we’ve won three. That makes me elite right off the bat.” If this sucks, which it might, what are the trade-offs? In twenty years of keeping my mouth shut, I got six. Now, honesty and assessment come down to it make sense to leave because there are other teams. I’m a free agent. I want to work for less than I can demand. I have some goals that are outlandish.
I get it. There are some realities of people who don’t want a 43-year-old quarterback. He went somewhere that was ready to win, and he imparted himself in it and he made a great decision for him. The thing he did is he kept it quiet. This is the other side of it that we don’t talk about a lot. People will often run their miles when there’s a success. They’ll spike the football. They’ll be boastful. “Did you see that? I kicked your ass?” Things along those lines.
To me, it falls in the same category. No good will come of that. That won’t age well. Bitching and complaining while you’re leaving or bitching and complaining, celebrating or making someone else feel bad in a victory are related to me. Both of them have very little long-term currency and it shows a lack of judgment, decision-making and forward-thinking. Celebrate with grace when you win and lose, and mitigate these things. Don’t trick creating a bulletin board material. You’re going to have a better long-term product because you’re thinking mindfully.
Number nine, if you are a manager and some company calls you as a reference check for a former employee who maybe wasn’t a great employee but they’re a good person. This one is always a very hard one for me. I get tons of calls from the reference. Being a manager for years, there are a lot of people that put your name down as a reference.
Sometimes, I’m a little surprised that people will put me down as a reference because it didn’t end well. I’ve had people that I’ve fired who put me as a reference check. In those cases, I’m very careful. I don’t want to lie. I don’t gush about someone who wasn’t a great employee, but they’re a good person, but I will share their strengths. I will say, “Here’s a role where this person would fit in if you’re looking for someone to do this. I think they could do that really well.”Celebrate with grace when you win. Celebrate with grace when you lose. Mitigate these things. If you do that, you're going to have a better long-term career because you're thinking mindfully. Click To Tweet
I’ll try to highlight strengths, even though it might not have ended well for them and try to avoid talking about some of the nastier things. A lot of companies, their policy for this reason is to say, “We don’t do reference checks. Just makes it simple.” That’s a lie. Whenever someone says, “I don’t do reference checks.” That means they don’t want to talk about the person. They’d rather pass and plead the fifth.
NVR and GE both had that policy of we don’t do reference checks, but I did hundreds of reference checks when I worked for both companies. If someone called and I liked you, I would give a good reference check for you. I didn’t care what NVR stated policy was. I was going to give a reference check and say something nice because you’re my friend now. You’re not an employee. You’re my friend, and I’m trying to help you.
I’m going to go a few different directions with this. If you’re going to put someone on your resume as a reference or you’re going to give someone as a reference, the first thing you need to do is check with the person who’s the reference. Ian has said earlier that he’d fired someone and they put them on. That’s being stupid like, “Is it okay if I put you down as a reference? Would you say good things if someone called?” I would answer that question quite honestly, “I’m probably not the best person for you to put down, but maybe you should talk to somebody else in the company that you worked with.” I’m dead serious.
It sounds hilarious. It’s such an awkward conversation.
It is, but you’re better off having that conversation with me and knowing I’m not going to do you justice than putting me down blindly and hoping. When I was in my twenties, I built a house and I use this hardwood company. They did my first house and they did an incredible job. They did a different type of flooring than we did when I worked at Ryan Homes. It wasn’t a subcontractor I worked with a lot.
On the second house, I was building this expensive house. I was stressed out about it and they did a terrible job to the point where it went legal. They didn’t perform. It costs me an extra $10,000. It was bad. Three people called me from that hardwood company and asked me for a reference. I finally called the owner. I said, “What the hell are you doing? You treated me like crap and you’ve got customers calling me.” He was a jerk about it. The calls ended but I did not give a good reference there.
The only time I’m going to lie is if you’re a good person and you’re not the greatest performer. I’m going to try to help you in some way, but there’s another side to that. The part that gets awkward for me is especially if it’s a friend calling on a reference. In that case, I never lie. If it’s someone that I know and that I care about, I’m not going to lie. I’m going to say, “Here’s the good and the bad. Here are the strengths and positives. I’d be careful putting them in this position. I think they do fine in this position.” When you ask me about someone, and you’ve hired some people that I’ve known, I’ll say strengths, weaknesses, here’s probably where they’ll do better, and here’s where they won’t. It’s a little different when you’re talking to someone that you know and you have to see.
Let’s wrap it up this way with references. Be mindful of who you put down as a reference. Be honest about it, think about it and be very strategic. In the instance that I talked about with the hardwood company, they weren’t mindful of the fact that I had a terrible experience and they wrote me down, but I see employees do this too. People get caught with theft. We’ve called references and they’re like, “We fired them because they stole something.” Do you put that as a reference? Someone may call one of these people. Understand that.
I think that’s right. If you were a terrible employee and someone calls me who knows me and asks, I’m going to say that. If it’s someone random that calls me about a terrible employee, I’ll say, “It’s 5 on 4 groups stated policy that we don’t do reference checks.” The next one is, saying you’re sick when you’re hungover. That one goes without saying. You don’t say I’m hungover and skip work. You got to say, “I got a little cold going on here. I got my nose a little plugged up. I don’t want to give this to everyone in the office.” I don’t think we need to expand on that too much. Do we, Frank?
No. We should go right to thirteen and wrap this sucker up.
That way, it makes me a little sad because I don’t miss work for being hungover anymore and marrows via the good old days where I used to have to call in sick. It was always a little obvious when you always did it on Fridays, though.
We were doing leadership essentials and you’re like, “I’m a little hungover. I woke up twelve minutes ago. The call started at noon. I have a big night with Dordo last night.”
I’m a little more honest about it these days. When you own your own company, you can be honest about it. What are you going to do?
I want to get into thirteen.
Thirteen is avoiding unnecessary meetings, which is my favorite reason for lying, and I do it unabashedly because I hate meetings. Here are my favorite things to do. I like to pick up a fake phone conversation from a customer and say this to a customer, and then get up and leave, or turn my Zoom video off, and be like, “I’ve got to take this customer.” That 100% of the time will get you off of anything or any meeting. No manager, no matter how senior you are, is going to say, “You can’t talk to that customer.” The CEO will look like an ass if he says, “You hang that phone up right now and get back in my meeting.” For me, the customer is a get out of crappy meetings free card every single time, and I love it.
I also love to do the hard stop. If a meeting is going too long, I’ll say I had a hard stop, especially if it’s a half-hour or Frank is about to do it to me right now because it’s coming up at noon. It’s 11:55 and he’s like, “I’ve got a hard stop.” It’s probably a lie. He doesn’t have anything going on. He hasn’t done shit all week because he’s been homesick. It’s like, “I got to take this call. I’m booked at that time.” If someone tries to put a meeting in, I’ll say, “I’m already double-booked. Can you handle that one for me?”
I want to jump in because I have a hard stop. The best one I’ve ever heard to avoid a meeting is my wife. My wife is a Professor at the University of Richmond and there was orientation. She had met these women an hour and a half earlier. The Dean was going through something and they were walking around campus. She tells these women that she’s now good friends with but she had just met.
She’s like, “I’m leaving.” They’re like, “You can’t leave.” She’s like, “I’m going to leave.” They’re like, “What are you doing?” She’s like, “I’m going to go to the gym. I’m going to work out, and I got a date later. If anybody asks, tell them I had diarrhea.” They all look at her and go, “Are you serious?” “Yeah. Tell them I have diarrhea. I’m going to leave,” and she fucking left.
I have a diarrhea story. We had a lady in Beltsville, our buoy office. She comes into our branch manager’s office at 2:00 and says, “I have to run.” She literally told our manager she shit in her pants. She was like, “I had a mess in my pants.” We didn’t believe it because this lady used to mess stuff all the time. She had a string of crazy car accidents.
We then see her car the next day and it’s completely fixed, but her brother-in-law is really good with cars, so he fixed it. We never bought it, but this lady never came back. That was her last day. She said she shit her pants. We used to always joke whenever someone would screw up. I’d be like, “You’ve got to go sniff her chair. That’s your punishment. Go sniff the shit chair.” There was a joke like no one went in that office for months because we had enough other offices, but that chair became the diarrhea chair that you had to sniff if you screwed up.
It’s like the Ed Rooney and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. You only got four grandparents. You can only use the dead grandmother so many times. What I’ve learned with diarrhea is people rarely probe.
That’s amazing. We’ve had fun with this. If you enjoyed this, give us a five-star review. If you think it sucked, but you’re friends with me and Frank, we’d ask you to lie and write a five-star review with some nice comments, even though you think it was stupid. Maybe Frank says some things that offended you. You think he’s ruining the show. Don’t write that. It’ll hurt his feelings. Give equal praise. Normally, most of you in the comment section are saying like, “Ian is carrying the show.” Don’t do that anymore. Say like, “Ian and Frank make a great partnership. They’re both equally intelligent.” Don’t rip on Frank. It hurts his feelings. Protect his feelings.
Ian, I don’t know if I’m being truthful when I say this has been a lot of fun.
I’m going to think about it for the rest of the day. See you, Franky.