Several years ago, I determined that it’d be a great idea to get a perm. Don’t ask me what came over me—my hair is long, coarse, and stick straight naturally. But, apparently I easily fall into the “wanting what you can’t have” trap.
So, one unsuspecting Tuesday evening, I wandered into my hairdresser and told him to go for it. I wanted to perm my hair. And, against his better judgment, he did it.
I’m sure you can tell where this is going.
By the time he turned around the chair so I could face myself in the mirror, I was nearly in tears. I looked like I had stuck my finger in a light socket—or like I could pass as a prize poodle in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Or, maybe even like a poodle who had an unfortunate run-in with said light socket.
Too proud to admit to my bad decision, I pasted on a smile, told him I loved it, and immediately began wondering what I was going to do when I showed up at the office the next day. How was I going to explain this?
Well, my friends, this story just keeps getting more embarrassing. When my co-workers remarked on how they’d never seen my hair so curly before, I was too mortified to confess my awful mistake. Instead, I told them that my hair was naturally that curly and I just didn’t have time to straighten it that morning—a lie I then kept up for the next two years.
First of all, please know that I’m cringing over here. But, I think my embarrassment is well worth it if we can all extract a major lesson from my own humiliation.
What’s the lesson? While there are some harmless lies that everyone tells, there are other that you just can’t undo at the office. So, take it from the girl with the unfortunate perm, it’s better if you just never tell them in the first place.
1. Claiming You’re Going to a Funeral
You’re actively job searching and need to take some time off for an interview you have scheduled. But, when your boss asks in passing what you have planned for your afternoon out of the office, you panic.
Before you can manage to think of a small white lie to tell her, you find yourself weaving together a detailed story about your grandmother’s funeral—despite the fact that your dear grandma is still alive and well.
This story is going to be nearly impossible to stick with into the future—unless you’re a real master of deception. Not only is it insensitive to others who are actually coping with loss, but you’ll also find yourself in a real bind if and when you really do have to attend that funeral.
If you can’t be fully transparent about your job search, it’s better to just state that you’re taking a personal day.
2. Blaming a Mistake on a Nonexistent Illness
You come stumbling into the office nearly two hours late. When your colleagues inquire about where you were, you blame your lateness on an illness that you don’t actually have—just so you can avoid admitting that you slept straight through your alarm.
Needless to say, not only is this once again insensitive, but it’s also bound to bring up numerous issues for you.
Chances are, you don’t know the details of the illness that you staked your claim on—which means you aren’t aware of all of the symptoms, triggers, and other important things you’d be in the loop on if you were actually coping with that ailment. So, rest assured, your truth will be exposed eventually.
3. Touting Skills You Don’t Really Have
In an effort to gain some additional credibility in the office, you jump in on a conversation about Excel and brag about your own spreadsheet mastery.
So, when your boss comes across an entire Excel workbook that needs some major help, he dumps the project on your desk. The problem? In reality, you barely know how to add two cells together.
Your lie now has you stuck between a rock and a hard place—you can either admit that you really don’t know how to do this project, or invest all of your energy, effort, and late nights into learning the ins and outs of Excel. Obviously, neither of those options are desirable.
While it can be tempting to pad your qualifications or embellish your skills a little bit in the workplace, this is yet another one of those instances when honesty is really the best policy.
4. Attributing Missed Work to Computer Problems
A deadline completely fell off your radar, and now there’s no way you’ll get that proposal wrapped up in time. In the interest of saving face, you tell your boss that you almost had it done when suddenly your computer went haywire.
This is the adult equivalent to that classic “the dog ate my homework” excuse. But, do you know what’s going to happen in response to your complaints about computer issues?
Well, chances are good that your IT department will arrive to take a look—only to find that your computer is in tip-top shape. So, unless you’re willing to sabotage yourself by dumping coffee all over your keyboard or readily accepting every popup that appears (which isn’t recommended, by the way), your tower of lies is going to come crashing down.
Listen, had I confessed to my co-workers about my perm faux pas, all likely would’ve been quickly forgiven. But, these other lies? They’re not quite as harmless as a bad hair day, and your colleagues might not be so ready and willing to move on from them.
Yes, it can be tempting to fabricate some stories in the office in order to preserve your ego or save your reputation. However, in the end, it’s always better to resist that urge and tell the truth—no matter how tough it can feel in the heat of the moment.
And, what happens if my cautionary tale is a little too late and you find yourself caught smack dab in the middle of a lie? Follow these steps to offer an explanation with as much poise and professionalism as possible.
Photo of person lying courtesy of Caiaimage/John Wildgoose/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author