We all know that lying is bad and wrong. You should never lie to your coworkers! Or should you?

Well, it kind of depends on what type of lie you’re telling. Psychologist Robin Dunbar of Oxford University has found that certain types of lies can actually strengthen the bonds between coworkers and be good for business.

Basically, there are two types of lies:

  • Anti-social lies – These are the kind of lies that people tell to cover up an embarrassing mistake, get out of doing an unpleasant task, avoid blame, or gain power and prestige. It includes things like boasting, exaggerating, unfairly blaming someone for a problem, and spreading malicious gossip.
  • Pro-social lies (also known as “white lies”) – These are the kind of lies that people tell to spare other people’s feelings, protect others, or make other people feel good about themselves. For instance, you might tell someone who is struggling with a project that you’re impressed with the effort that he or she has made so far. Or you might ask how the project is going and act like you’re interested (even if you’re not) because you know the person needs to vent about it. In these instances, you’re not being honest – but you are being kind.

Anti-social lies can cause untold amounts of damage to a company. They fracture relationships, erode trust, and weaken morale. But pro-social lies can actually be beneficial! They can strengthen relationships, improve teamwork, and help to make the office a friendlier, more supportive place.

So go ahead and tell a pro-social lie now and then. It can a have lasting, positive effect. And even if you’re not being entirely truthful, it will probably be appreciated!


Goman, C. K. (2014, July 29). Research finds that (some) lies are good for workplace relationships. Forbes. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolkinseygoman/2014/07/29/research-finds-that-some-lies-are-good-for-workplace-relationships/