More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies at work, but rather than being truthful about the severity of the condition to get off work, they lie. Their mistrust of leadership creates a cycle of deception and it the root cause is why employees lie, explains Jack Skeen, PhD of Skeen Leadership.
Why Employees Lie
When it comes to something like allergies, there is a peculiar stigma, explains Dr. Skeen, author of The Circle Blueprint. “Fifty-one percent of people who have allergies don’t believe others view them as a serious condition.” When their symptoms do become a serious issue, making them unable to perform their work, 47% say they feel guilty if they dare ask for time off due to their symptoms. Dr. Skeen believes this puts US companies in a precarious situation that inevitably leads to a cycle of mistrust and deception.
Dr. Jack Skeen Clip – Why employees lie, specifically, about their allergies at work.
Of workers who experience severe allergies at work, a few habits emerge. In some cases, employees pretend they have no problem at all, powering through. In other cases or they make up an illness considered to be more serious by leaders. Neither is an ideal situation for leaders or workers… no, not even the “powering through” habit.
Of the workers who power through their allergic flare-up, they dwell on how ridiculous their situation is, yearn for the ability to just be honest with their boss, then their frustration turns into resentment. And of the workers who lie about their condition, this just leads to more deception.
If there is one person who identifies with the severity of allergies, it’s me. They can become debilitating. Personally, my head swells up, I sneeze constantly, and fluids run down my nose non-stop. I can’t even blow my nose because the blockage in my nose doesn’t allow air to pass through.
Why employees lie, and fully understanding the culture that promotes this behavior is key. Some leaders in these situations will be tempted to rapidly treat the symptom, possibly making the workplace allergy free, without truly understanding the problem. Dr. Skeen explains that’s a mistake. It’s more important to understand why employees feel the need to lie about allergies at work in the first place.
Dr. Jack Skeen Explains The Root Cause
Dr. Jack Skeen explains that allergies at work are an issue, but they aren’t the real problem. The issue is a toxic work environment that puts employees in a position where they can’t be honest and deception is the only option. Employees believe “If I’m honest about my needs I either won’t be taken seriously or be penalized somehow. Maybe it will come up at review time, or maybe it will impact a promotion.” Dr. Skeen explained. “I think people really worry about those things” he explained. And when their only option to function is to lie, the cycle of deception works and work becomes us vs them. The reason why employees lie is because they feel they have no choice. This cycle can stop.
Dr. Jack Skeen Clip – There’s a bigger issue at work than just allergies. We need to diagnose why employee lie in the first place.
“Once people are used to lying, you have no idea what they are lying about.” Dr. Skeen said, ” You don’t know what they’re hiding if they didn’t do the work they’re supposed to or if they made mistakes and aren’t willing to own them.” But it gets worse. “They tend to cast blame on other people, so it becomes hard to truly figure out how to fix things in a culture.”
What Leaders Can Do
Although it’s not immediately obvious, when one digs into the core reason why employees lie, it becomes clear bosses bear the responsibility for starting the cycle of deception. “I think blame starts with them” explained Dr. Skeen “they set the pace, they set the tone for the environment of everybody that works for them… We’ve got to stop treating people like children who need to be watched and questioned and mistrusted. Because if you treat people like children, they behave like children, and they hide, pretend and lie. It’s not the strongest way to build a workforce.”
Dr. Jack Skeen Clip – Stop treating employees like children. Feeling disrespected is why employees lie.
We need to simply trust employees, it’s really that simple. That trust will come back tenfold. The natural fear, of course, is abuse. Bosses believe allergies at work are only the beginning of potential anarchy. If we tell our staff to stay home, no justification needed will things get out of control? Will people take time off for everything? Will they even come back to work?
Truthfully, at first, the answer might be “yes” as employees recover from their abusive situation, but that won’t last long. Dr. Skeen explains that every interaction with their staff is an opportunity to build a culture of fairness. If you simply tell people what you need, and listen to their needs you can both problem solve and create a true win/win where you both get a benefit.
How To Create A Win-Win and Kill The Reason Why Employees Lie – Dr. Jack Skeen
Practically, a win-win looks like A) You don’t feel well, but B) you can work from home and still be productive. The alternative situation is them either powering through and becoming resentful or lying about their illness entirely, simply not working at all. Heck, even giving the employee flexibility to go to the pharmacy and trusting them goes a long way in building a culture of trust.
You may not be able to cure allergies at work but you can prevent employees from becoming allergic to your leadership and work culture.
Full Interview With Dr. Jack Skeen on Why Employees Lie
Learn more about Jack Skeen, PhD at his website.