The Lies We Tell in HR and Talent Acquisition!

By Tim Sackett

Everyone lies, right? I mean a little. Not bad lies. It’s like the lies we tell those we love to not hurt their feelings, or we believe the lie we are telling is really a victimless crime. You know the kind of lies I’m talking about:

  • Does this dress make me look fat? (Of course not…the dress has nothing to do with you looking fat…)
  • Ordering take-out food, then putting in normal dishes and making them believe you cooked it.
  • Buying new clothes, then bringing them home in dry cleaners plastic, to make it look like it is just stuff from the cleaners, and you really didn’t go buy stuff your budget couldn’t afford! (I have the shoes I buy shipped to my office and then wear them home!)
  • What size are you? (Oh, I’m a size 3! Only at Chico’s!)

Clearly, there are different types of lies.  The ones above, while clearly hiding the truth, aren’t meant to cause pain to the parties involved, and probably, in the end, trying to hold the peace within the relationship (i.e., that what they don’t know, won’t hurt them).

Then, there are those lies (Damned Lies) that will send you directly to hell, don’t pass go, don’t collect $200.  Those are the ones that cause people to lose their jobs, their families, their dignity, and pretty much anything of value.  I think we all agree, these are the “real” lies that get people into trouble.

The problem is, our “little lies”, like those listed above, tend to be the entry drug of lies, that lead to the damned lies.  Boy, this gets really confusing, especially trying to explain this to your kids! “No, Timmy, it’s not okay to lie! But you told Daddy we didn’t buy anything today and you bought that stuff at Lulu!”

Then, we have those lies we tell in HR and TA.  These are lies meant to primarily avoid conflict, protect feelings, protect privacy, protect relationships, etc. You know these –

HR and TA Lies:

Employee: How am I’m performing, and is my job in jeopardy? (bad performer)

HR: You’re really working hard and giving great effort. As of right now, there are no plans to let you go (but 15 min. after you leave I’ll have the plan).


Candidate: Do you have any room for negotiation? 

TA: We can’t move an inch, we’ve completely maxed out what we can offer you. (But, if you decline the offer more money will magically come flying out of my butt!) 


Employee: Can I still sign up for insurance, I forgot to sign up before the open enrollment deadline!?

HR: Of course not, it’s against the federal law, marshall law, the world health organization, and Rule 3 of the Secret Society of Evil HR Pros, and not to mention the Geneva Convention! How could you be so stupid?! We reminded you 87 times via email. We’re very sorry but the government will not allow us to help you! (Or, if we really like you and you’re a valuable employee who is hard to replace, “theoretically” we could fire you on Friday, and hire you back on Monday, backdate your paperwork and sign you up. But don’t tell anyone, it’s just our little secret!)


The last one I like the best, probably because I see it happen in every (yes, I mean every) company I’ve ever worked in or with!

What lies do you tell in HR & TA?

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