Finance News & Insights

5 subtle signals of a lying boss

If your boss exhibits any of these traits when delivering news, chances are you’re not getting the real story.

According to the Stanford University Graduate School of Business study, these are some common characteristics of a deceptive boss:

  1. Avoids using the word “I” — and instead speaks in the third person
  2. Uses fewer hesitation words (um, er, etc.)
  3. Uses swear words more frequently
  4. Makes more references to general knowledge info (i.e., “As you know,”), and
  5. Uses fewer “non-extreme positive emotion words” (i.e., calling something “fantastic” rather than just “good”).

Here’s how the study was conducted: David Larcker and Anastasia Zakolyukina of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business analyzed nearly 30,000 transcripts of conference calls by United States CEOs and CFOs between 2003-2007.

The pair then compared the conference calls with psychological studies that showed how people speak differently when they aren’t telling the truth — and tested whether these common deception traits were more prevalent in cases where bosses weren’t completely truthful about company profits.

Their findings were published in a report titled, “Detecting Deceptive Discussions in Conference Calls.”

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