Why do people play poker face at work?

When you think about it we spend our life playing poker faces which is in a way lying. We invent a story to not hurt a colleague or just to enjoy a quiet afternoon at work. We even lie to ourselves when we procrastinate and think we are on time, until it’s just too late. Lying happens in organizations during coffee breaks, interviews, sales, internal processes....  It goes beyond borders and it seems impossible to live without those acts of bad faith. We lie while considering it with some kind of disgust.

There are acceptable and unacceptable lies and the border between those two depends on everyone sensitivity. Nonetheless, some lies can be harmful to organizations and their employees. I would like to focus on the lies & poker faces that people create when they are proved guilty or wrong. It can be challenging for a team to deal with a group member who cannot face reality or his responsibilities. This post aims to determine the possible origins of lies and open a discussion on strategies to help teams and individuals in those situations.

People lie when they make mistakes or ignore a rule that lead to an incident. Such actions can have huge repercussions. A lie to a customer can lead to a loss of customer loyalty and then a decrease in sales. Our friend internet is always there to share bad experiences. A lie in a team can impact the engagement that your employees have while destroying their trust. In the end, the efficiency of the group will be impaired and your team may never totally recover from the consequences of the lie.

The main sign that a person is lying to others or to himself are: .




As you can imagine those reactions create a sense of powerlessness and frustration in the team facing such behavior. Furthermore, it does not allow solving the initial issue or create better policies and processes because people affect gets involved. The group dynamic may face serious issues. The first step to stop making a mistake is to face your responsibilities and recognize your implication and the one of others.

Most of the time people create comforting lies in order to:


The worth thing we can do when a mistake is done in a team is to look for the ONE responsible of all this mess. Mistakes and failures never come from one person but from the incapacity of the group at a given time to see the big picture. One last person may have pressed the wrong button but a cascade of events before this final one led him there. If as a leader, an employee and a person you understand that there is not a guilty person but a group of individual who share their responsibilities in the occurrence of the incident then you will be able to learn. You will be able to unfold the actions that led to this final one. You will understand that no one can judge the executioner because he was unfortunately the one designated by cultural norms, expectations and habits to push this button. Without him you would have never find out that something was wrong. You should still be able to judge the performance and measure the impact of the incident on the team and the organization.

Next time someone makes a mistake and reacts as described before, pause. Realize that he made the broken system obvious. A good team is the one that will find a way to solve the issue without looking for a guilty person. A mistake is just another opportunity to learn. Maybe a way to help our little liars and poker players is to create an atmosphere of trust and security. I would suggest to reflect on the following thoughts



What are the challenges you face when working with a person that plays Poker Faces?

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