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That white lie may ruin your career

That white lie may ruin your career

By Belinda Wilson


We have all done it at some stage, a little white lie – usually innocent enough.  It may be that you say you can’t work late because you have other plans... rather than those plans of solving the legal problems of the firm, it often ends up as plans of putting on your pyjamas and settling in for a night of football on the couch.   

As lawyers, we know too well that it takes a lifetime to build up your reputation and a split second to ruin it – your reputation with your employer as a hardworking and trustworthy employee; your reputation with your clients as a knowledgeable and trusted adviser; and your reputation with colleagues as putting your clients first, maintaining confidentiality and a strong sense of ethics.

But when does that little white lie start to unravel your career?

1. When social media catches you out

You said no to working on a project with your team, but your social media feed shows you at the newest restaurant #foodporn #caughtout.  There is nothing wrong with having a social life, but don’t let it sour your career if you weren’t honest about your plans in the first place.

Don’t post in the heat of the moment.  A tweet can either lead the free world, or ruin it, or more particularly, your career and what you truly believe in.

Social media does not reflect your dedication to your career, but it can erode it as you may be viewed as untrustworthy or narrow minded on certain social topics.

2. When you are being second guessed

A lot can be said for sixth sense, especially when it comes to getting to the bottom of white lies.  Or is it our skill as a lawyer in cross examination and testing the evidence?

We have long memories and as lawyers we are trained to find inconsistencies in stories.  Such as, last week you said you had a clear schedule for the rest of the month, but you are saying that you are behind in your work and struggling to keep up.  

When inconsistencies arise, you will have people second guessing your values and your ability to be truthful.  

3. When things just don’t add up

A former boss once told me that we let people into our lives on three levels:

  • parts of us that is public to all
  • parts of us that we reveal what we want to reveal
  • parts of us that are private

Although there is nothing wrong with these three elements, make sure that you are consistent in who you are.  The balance between revealing everything and revealing nothing is a skill.  While it is important to keep parts of our lives private, make sure that you don’t do it at the expense of your core value of being trustworthy.

The best advice I can give is that if you need to tell a little white lie, make sure it is worth it, and that no one finds out.

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