10 Dumb Lies That Lousy Bosses Tell

Telling the simple truth is far more productive than trying to fool your employees

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By its very nature, managing employees requires a certain amount of discretion. However, there’s a fine line between discretion and deception that, when crossed, creates resentment and job dissatisfaction.

This post contains 10 lies that I’ve heard bosses tell in real life, along with suggested true statements that do the job much better.

Please note that some of these lies would be perfectly reasonable to tell if they were true.

1. “I’m paying you a competitive salary.”

Unless your employees are very stupid, the first thing they’ll do after you make this statement is hop on the Web and research average salary levels and find out what people in their position generally get paid. If it’s less than they’re making, they’ll assume that either you’re lying or (best case) uninformed.

A truth to tell instead: “I’m paying what I can afford to pay.”

2. “My job is to make you more successful.”

It’s always a mistake to set expectations for which you can’t really deliver the goods. If you’re secretly more concerned with your own advancement rather than in being of service to your employees, you’ll inevitably create resentment when your actions don’t match your fine words.

A truth to tell instead: “Your job is to make ME more successful.”

3. “We’re all one big, happy family.”

This can only be true if 1) you yourself came from a happy family, and 2) everyone else came from a similar happy family. Chances are, however, that some of your employees come from dysfunctional families, and the last thing you want is for them to bring their family dynamics into the workplace.

A truth to tell instead: “I’d like you to be happy working here.”

4. “We are following a five-year plan.”

OK, this one’s just silly. Take a look at your five-year plan from a couple of years ago. After you’ve stopped laughing, take a good long look at how you and your organization really make decisions and prioritize activities. In all likelihood, you’re using a three- to 18-month window, like everyone else.

A truth to tell instead: “We do our best to adapt.”

5. “My brother-in-law was the best person for that job.”

Who do you think you’re kidding? Everybody, including the brother-in-law, knows that he got that position because (gasp!) he’s your brother-in-law. Attempting to sugarcoat obvious nepotism as some kind of planned business strategy is embarrassing to everyone involved.

A truth to tell instead: “It was either that or me sleeping on the couch.”

6. “This is a 9-to-5, salaried job.”

Yeah, and there’s a unicorn eating petunias in my garden. Let’s face it: In today’s business world, there simply ain’t no such creature as a 40-hour workweek for salaried employees. Unpaid overtime has become the norm inside most companies, and it’s absurd to pretend otherwise.

A truth to tell instead: “If you meet your goals, you get extra vacation days.”

7. “There’s no truth to those layoff rumors.”

Though you may want to keep people working hard when they’re probably soon to be axed, the minute you deny the rumors, anyone with half a brain will be in their office rewriting their résumé. Pretty much all but the most naive workers know that no layoff rumor is true until it has been officially denied.

A truth to tell instead: “Worrying about stuff that might happen is pointless.”

8. “Employees are our most valuable asset.”

Most employees are intelligent enough to realize that most companies, including yours, have plenty of assets that they value more than their employees. This kind of platitude, rather than reassuring employees, simply convinces them that you can’t be trusted to tell them the real truth.

A truth to tell instead: “I value your contribution.”

9. “Your participation is entirely voluntary.”

Once again, it’s fine to say this if it’s really true, but most of the time (let’s be honest here) what you really mean is that participation is somewhere between “highly encouraged” and “absolutely mandatory.” After all, if the activity were truly voluntary, there’d be no need to point it out, right?

A truth to tell instead: “I expect full participation.”

10. “I will divorce my wife and marry you.”

A recent study of successful men who have affairs found that (despite their promises) only 3 percent divorce their wives and marry their girlfriends. Given that office affairs involving the boss (especially) are a huge distraction and morale killer for everyone involved, why compound the problem by laying a line of BS?

A truth to tell instead: “Let’s just not go there.”

Read more from Inc.com:10 Eye-Opening Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read
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50 comments
OhReallynow123
OhReallynow123

#10 simply doesn't belong on the list since, for a bad boss, sex is a way of currying favor that works for all but the dumbest woman.  Wanting to get married doesn't even enter the equation unless the woman is very young or naive. Rather, add to the list, if an affair is required to advance, you have a bad boss.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

A young person I know was offered a job and was told "we work 50-55 hours a week".  I told him he should be very careful about taking that job!

RogerFulton
RogerFulton

I've heard everyone of them, and when I did, I immediately warmed up my resume, sat on my wallet and locked my office door. Incidentally, I heard none of them in the interview process. WARNING, Will Robinson, WARNING!! If you hear any of them in an interview, get up and run (do not walk - run) to the exit. You are to seek out another employer. If they will say/do this to you in an interview, I can tell you it will be five times worse once you're in the door. All ten are true, all ten are bad, and you should avoid anyone who says it.

webdrivenincome
webdrivenincome

You can add the one about our company has just merged with X company.  Nobody is going to be released.

firestar1075
firestar1075

some of the stuff I have heard in public service would make you appreciate being in the private sector. Public sector employees are constantly told there is no money for this, there is no money for that THEN it comes out that city just paid 100.00 bucks for some study that they will not use


we are often told that we should be grateful we have the job and benefits in the first place BUT get upset when we flaunt our jobs or show too much pride as in "there are other city employees that do a job" to which we reply and some of them are elected and do nothing but react to the recommendations from division heads and vote once a month

gplvn609
gplvn609

You have to understand, the reason we have reconstructed your commission AGAIN to pay you less and increased the cost of our phone plans and prices of our phones and demand you sell more is because we have a BUDGET and we have to be able to pay our SHAREHOLDERS and our CEO needs to make a few more MILLION dollars this year too.

TRUTH that should be told: Here at AT&T we just don't care about you. We pay you what we are going to pay you and if you don't like it go find another job. Now go sell something.

twalk
twalk

#12  We don't create new job positions.   Example: They have only one full time Senior Programmer position. You are a entry level Programmer (have been for year), but do Senior Programmer work.  Ask for Senior Programmer position.  They say that there is only one Senior Programmer slot.They also say that all job will be posted and interviewed. Out of the blue they create three new Vice President Assistance position and fill the position without posting the positions.

BruceCross
BruceCross

#11 I would love to give you the raise you deserve but Corporate has put a hold on raises... (though 2 days later the BOSS gives a nice raise to the friend he hired from a previous business he worked at lol)

Augie80
Augie80

You will get extra vacation days alright, but you will not be able to use them.

Augie80
Augie80

You will get extra vacation days alright, but you will never be able to take them.

RudyDavis
RudyDavis

My favorite lie was when they give you your quarterly evaluations and say we can't give you as good an evaulation as you deserve because they have to be able to show room for improvement and if they gave you what you really deserve there would be no room for improvement on your next evaluation.

CharlieGheen
CharlieGheen

I received an end of the year evaluation once that stated my negatives as:


1. I was too nice.


2. I did too good of a job.

pointfix
pointfix

How about an article on the 50 dumb things employees tell their bosses ? As an ex boss I've heard them all.
Few and I mean few employees are dependable. The rest I have dealt with were trying the take the short cut on everything. Even after giving them "latitude" to be responsible for their own jobs and make their own decisions I was disappointed time and time again over my 35 years in business. Excuses... I could write a book.


Instead of berating your boss,,,,, help him or her. It's a hard lonely job.


MockingBird
MockingBird

11.  "If you like your Doctor, if you like your plan, you can keep them."


From the mouth of President barrack hussein obama.  Later, when it became obvious that people were not able to keep their doctor or plan several explanations were offered.  


Jay Carney felt that everyone  "should have not that those statements were not the truth." 


Ezekiel Emanuel, Obamacare architect stated "of course you can keep your doctor or your plan if you want  - you just have to pay for them yourself."


David Axelrod , former White House & obama adviser, stated “Most people are going to keep their own plan.”  And • :"People didn't lose their health insurance - They're transitioning to better coverage." 


Finally - 


Kathleen Sebelius is asking insurance companies to "Please extend medical insurance even to people who may pay only a part of their premiums." 

segesta65
segesta65

You forgot "Got a minute?" which turns into a 45 minute ordeal about some new project your boss is dumping on you.

Yohaku
Yohaku

These are your better replies? Bad reasons from bad bosses, but used across America to justify bad management, the real curse of business.Now, how about real replies for these lousy excuses?

”I’m paying what I can afford to pay.”Reply: “I can’t live on what you can afford to spare.”

”Your job is to make ME more successful.” Reply: “If my job is to make you successful, then I have no future here.”

“If you meet your goals, you get extra vacation days.” Reply: “So I work 4 extra hours a day for a promise of a day off, if you think I’m meeting your goals?Salaried jobs are for manager-want-to-bees who can’t do math and don’t look around themselves. If you are not supervising people, it’s not a management position, just a way to not pay for overtime.

RamezGhazzaoui
RamezGhazzaoui

"If it’s less than they’re making, they’ll assume that either you’re lying or (best case) uninformed"

Deat Time, I am sure you meant to write "If it's more than they're making", not it it's less.

FredEctempt
FredEctempt

"Worrying about stuff that might happen is pointless" is considered to be a truth???  What a stupid statement.  Anyone who's concerned enough about layoff rumors to ask the boss would be a moron not to be worrying at least to the point of bringing resume etc. up to date and ready to act at an instant's notice.  Because an "instant" is all the notice they'll get.

jason.brabander
jason.brabander

How about nearly every excuse given to people being fired?  Heck, here in KS they can flat make up reasons to let you go and you have no recourse.

PWINGS
PWINGS

They omitted one of the most common and egregious lies: "No one else has complained about that." 

Several years ago, I attended a Carnegie course in which all of the participants were employed by the same company. At the end, students were split into three teams whose task was to identify a problem they had at work and propose a solution to it. At the last class, management was invited to attend and listen to the students' presentations. Of course, no one in management saw fit to attend the last class which was just as well since all three groups (independently) had  identified the same problem and proposed the same solution. The problems plaguing the company were obvious to everyone. What was particularly outrageous to the students was that several of them described notifying upper management of this problem and they were each told the same lie: "No one else has complained about that. You're the only one!" 


Truth to tell instead: "Yes, we know about it but we can't (won't) do anything about it." Instead, they insult your intelligence with an obvious, poorly told lie.

RogerFulton
RogerFulton

@webdrivenincome or, the one I love, " Now, everybody has a place here, there's room for everyone!!"

                                        ............SURE.

1awm
1awm

@twalk I don't know all the circumstances but 1 year at a company unless you have significant experience directly in that area doesn't make you Sr. at many places.  Generally speaking, for someone to be a Sr. Programmer we look for a minimum of 7 years experience.

firestar1075
firestar1075

@RudyDavis in public service you are given a blank evaluation and asked to evaluate yourself...I asked my boss "if he had already written my evaluation?" and he said yes, so I said "I cant give you my version" and he asked why and I said..."because I know you are not going to use what I wrote" and he asked how did I know that and I said, "because (you alredy admitted writing it) and I know I'm the best employee you have", he says no you're not...."see, that's why its a waste of time for me to do a self evaluation, its demorializing to put down your accomplishments and at eval time see NONE of them included in the "real evaluation"...he wanted an example and I gave him everyone for that year (8 good ones) to which he said, that's what your job is..."but it was above whats required which makes me an exceptional employee"...he says no, you don't get points to doing more than expected...then I ended the encounter with "then what and how do you evaluate me against? 


I got him to re write it not for a raise as much as I wanted a good eval......so when they DID give out raises, I would be able to prove my worth

garoud
garoud

@pointfixYes is a hard lonely job for which they pay you a boss salary, so as bosses say: stop whining.


and please, do write a book, I'm running short on excuses :D

garoud
garoud

@pointfixYes is a hard and lonely job... and they pay you for it (lot more than what they pay your employees) so, as bosses say, stop whining.

And yes, please do write a book, I'm running short on excuses ;)

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@MockingBird So MockingBird, can you read,  this has to become a political issue?   Your quote is not relevant, Obama is not most people's "boss".   This is an article about lies bosses tell, not ones that politicians tell.  You want some whoppers, go look up most of what Reagan had to say, he was either asleep or in fantasy land most of the time.  


Fact is most people did keep their doctors.  Fact is, most people had NO changes in their lives.  Fact is, for the most part, it was  the people with crappy insurance plans that lost their previous coverage because the crappy plans were legislated out of business and had to stop offering policies.  


There were and are significant problems with AFCA however this discussion about 'keeping your doctor' is a way over used and abused part truth.  Somehow, you right wing guys are never satisfied with dealing with real problems but want to pile on with other issues that aren't true.  You probably are still looking for those death panels.

icemanpunisher
icemanpunisher

@MockingBird 1. Bush: "We went into Russia, we said, 'Here's some IMF money,' and it ended up in Viktor Chernomyrdin's pocket and others."

Fact: "Bush appears to have tangled up whispers about possible wrongdoing by Chernomyrdin -- who co-chaired a commission with Gore on U.S.-Russian relations -- with other unrelated allegations concerning the diversion of International Monetary Fund money. While there has been speculation that Chernomyrdin profited from his relationship with Gazprom, a big Russian energy concern, there have been no allegations that he stole IMF money." Washingon Post, 10/12/00

2. Bush: "We got one [a hate crime law] in Texas, and guess what? The three men who murdered James Byrd, guess what's going to happen to them? They're going to be put to death ... It's going to be hard to punish them any worse after they get put to death....We're happy with our laws on our books."

Fact: "The three were convicted under Texas' capital murder statute...The state has a hate crime statute, but it is vague." LA Times, 10/12/00.
"The original Texas hate-crimes bill, signed into law by Democrat Ann Richards, boosted penalties for crimes motivated by bigotry. As Gore correctly noted, Bush maneuvered to make sure a new hate-crimes law related to the Byrd killing did not make it to his desk. The new bill would have included homosexuals among the groups covered, which would have been anathema to social conservatives in the state." Washington Post, 10/12/00

3. Bush: bragged that in Texas he was signing up children for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as "fast as any other state."

Fact: "As governor he fought to unsuccessfully to limit access to the program. He would have limited its coverage to children with family incomes up to 150 percent of the poverty level, though federal law permitted up to 200 percent. The practical effect of Bush's efforts would have been to exclude 200,000 of the 500,000 possible enrollees." Washington Post, 10/12/00

4. Bush: "He [Gore] is for registration of guns."

Fact: "Gore actually favors licensing for new handgun purchasers but nothing as vast as registering all guns." Salon, 10/12/00

5. Bush: Said he found Gore's tendency to exaggerate "an issue in trying to defend my tax relief package. There was some exaggeration about the numbers" in the first debate.

Fact: "No, there wasn't, and Bush himself acknowledged that the next day on ABC's Good Morning America when Charlie Gibson pinned him on it." Salon, 10/12/00

6. Bush: "I felt during his debate with Senator [Bill] Bradley saying he [Gore] authored the EITC [earned-income tax credit] when it didn't happen."

Fact: "Actually, Gore had claimed to have authored an 'expansion of the earned-income tax credit,' which he did in 1991." Salon, 10/12/00

7. Fact: Gore noted that Texas "ranks 49th out of the 50 states in healthcare in children with healthcare, 49th for women with healthcare and 50th for families with healthcare"

Bush: "You can quote all the numbers you want but I'm telling you we care about our people in Texas. We spent a lot of money to make sure people get healthcare in the state of Texas."

8. Fact: Gore said, "I'm no expert on the Texas procedures, but what my friends there tell me is that the governor opposed a measure put forward by Democrats in the Legislature to expand the number of children that would be covered ... And instead [he] directed the money toward a tax cut, a significant part of which went to wealthy interests."

Bush: "If he's trying to allege I'm a hardhearted person and don't care about children, he's absolutely wrong."

9. Bush: "The three men who murdered James Byrd, guess what's going to happen to them? They'll be put to death. A jury found them guilty."

Fact: Two of the three are being put to death. The other was given life. Bush Watch, 10/12/00

10. Bush: said he favored "equal" rights for gays and lesbians, but not "special" rights.

Fact: "Bush has supported a Texas law that allows the state to take adopted children from gay and lesbian couples to place the kids with straight couples." Salon, 10/12/00.
"Bush supports hate crime protections for other minorities! So Bush doesn't believe that gays should have the same 'special' rights in this regard as blacks, Jews, Wiccans and others. Employment discrimination? Again, Bush supports those rights for other Americans, but not gays. Military service? Bush again supports the right to military service for all qualified people--as long as they don't tell anyone they're gay. Marriage? How on earth is that a special right when every heterosexual in America already has it? But again, Bush thinks it should be out-of-bounds for gays. What else is there? The right to privacy? Nuh-huh. Bush supports a gays-only sodomy law in his own state that criminalizes consensual sex in private between two homosexuals." New Republic, 10/13/00

11. Bush. "We ought to do everything we can to end racial profiling."

Fact: The Texas Department of Public Safety has just this year begun keeping detailed information about the race and sex of all people stopped by its troopers, the sixth year Bush has been in office. Salon, 10/12/00

12. Bush got caught not giving the full story on Texas air pollution laws. He was correct in saying the 1999 utility deregulation bill he signed into law had mandatory emissions standards.

Fact: "What was missing, as Gore's campaign pointed out, was that many more non-utility industrial plants are not mandated to reduce air quality. The issue is an important one because Texas ranks near the bottom in air-quality standards. Bush instead approved a voluntary program allowing grandfathered oil, coal, and other industrial plants to cut down on pollution." Boston Globe, 10/12/00

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@segesta65 I have had bosses at two different companies who just happen to stop by your desk "for a minute" at about 5 pm and next thing you know it is 7 pm and you still have not left.  

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

@Yohaku While your replies are honest, they are likely to put you in the smart ass club that will not win any political favors.  If you don't think an office is political then you have not seen many offices.  I had one boss that fired people summarily for any comment they made that she did not care for.  it is her company, she can do as she likes.  

skillingsworth
skillingsworth

@jason.brabander


It's that way in 49 states.  They can let you go with no reason or justification...no need to make up reasons unless they are trying to make you feel better (or worse).  It's call at-will employment.

twalk
twalk

@PWINGS or they blame you for the issue. You are the problem.

pointfix
pointfix

Employees assume that someone as told the boss before now..... when in fact bosses are more than likely the last people to know that something in going wrong in the work place unless someone has the intestinal fortitude to go in set down and tell them.

JLarronde
JLarronde

@PWINGS I tried to offer a solution for a problem, and was treated like I was the problem to solve. The biggest problem for most companies is hate. They hate their employees. We are the problem. 

Everything else is part of the business. 

TanmayLololAnaisPradhan
TanmayLololAnaisPradhan

@1awm @twalk But why give them senior responsibilities and junior pay ? Had this. Employer wants the Earth, Moon and Sun, except that I am a rookie, filling a rookie position, on a sub-rookie level salary.

Then surprise when something goes awry. I am the scapegoat, not the boss.

pointfix
pointfix

@garoud@pointfixI can assure you that if given the chance to leave my technical roll and become a manager, the money, which was just above my employees, was not enough. 

The work place today is full of victims. They don't pay me enough, they treat me bad, they don't value me, they don't let me make decisions, they play favorites, they make me work harder while other have it easy. 

GROW UP

garoud
garoud

@pointfixthat a boss finds out last speaks very ill of that boss. Think of an Army CO telling that same phrase: "unless my soldiers tell me I won't know".

I do understand the point that there's a certain level of knowledge that only employees have. But if there's a problem, is the boss problem to know it.

twalk
twalk

@pointfix a common excuse of the boss is you are the problem.  They don't want to deal with it.

Yoshi
Yoshi

@pointfixIf that's the case then those managers are isolating themselves. IE: Leading from behind.

pointfix
pointfix

@garoudBy the way, as any employee anywhere, you share the responsibility for your workplace just as much as your manager/supervisor.

pointfix
pointfix

@garoud@pointfixIf you folks know how to lead then why don't you take a turn and do it. It's really easy isn't it ? go for it.