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Women in Leadership: More women being lied to in negotiations

Rhian Morgan

Would you lie to me? The answer is yes, writes Rhian Morgan, as she looks at a study that shows people are more likely to lie to women in negotiations

You’re at a garage and the mechanic quotes a ridiculous price. A builder tells you the work is going to take a lot longer than expected. An employee flatters you after calling a meeting, then asks for a pay rise. If you suspect you’re being duped, then that’s because you probably are.

New research shows that women are more likely to be lied to during negotiations than their male counterparts.

Why are women in the workplace being lied to? Well, according to the Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes study, women are viewed as less competent, by male and female colleagues. However, men were more likely to be dishonest with women. Almost a quarter of men (24%) admitted they lied to women (as opposed to three per cent who confessed they lied to other men), whereas 17% of women were dishonest to other females but 11% also fibbed to men as well.

Researchers found it was not unusual for females to be told blatant lies when men in similar positions were told the truth.
While men were also more likely to be let in on privileged information.

Lead author of the study Prof Laura Kray said: “I think there's very clearly a cultural stereotype that women are more easily misled.”
It’s an attitude we see time and again. For instance, in a previous column I examined how flexitime, although good for business, is usually not implemented in organisations because it is associated with mothers needing family time. And mothers are seen as less competent and trustworthy in the workplace because they are viewed as being less committed.

Studies also show that women are less likely than men to retaliate after finding out they have been lied to. So, although women are viewed as more naïve in the workplace, it may be that they are just less malicious.

And we all lie, to some extent. A study of 2,000 Brits found that on average people lie 28 times a month, through email, social media and mobiles, compared to 17 times face-to-face. With much of our work being conducted remotely, this is increasing lying in the workplace by up to a third.

Yet can it be a good thing? What is the truth behind why we are lied to? Psychologists say that people who are skilful deceivers also often have good social skills. Often, their skills help them make contacts, lubricating the egos of their bosses, enabling them to climb the ladders of success. When they become leaders, liars can make employees feel valued. However, on the other side, they are probably not as good at their jobs but are able to deceive people into thinking they are competent.

For even though the research states that people tell untruths to women as they deem them less competent, the people in this study are self-confessed liars. And, surely, if you feel the need to lie to someone in the first place, it means you are using the extra brain power needed to lie, and remember that lie, because you are scared, because you feel your (female) colleague has an advantage in some way. That you need to win a negotiation with a lie because your own arguments are flawed?

Whatever the truth, if you want to avoid being duped in the workplace, Dr Kray has a few tips for women entering negotiations.
“Practise before you go to the bargaining table,” she advises. “Have your questions laid out in front of you so you have guidelines you can stick to it terms of scrutinising and asking for verification. 

“It means really signalling a willingness to push back… [and] building our sense of power and competence.” Sound advice for when you’re taking a board meeting – or arguing with that pesky workman.



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