We are, by and large, a nation of liars.
We tell big lies and small lies, and we lie for reasons both noble and depraved.
Mostly we lie to protect others or to protect ourselves from others—from their judgment, their interference, or their potential to hurt us if they knew the truth.
I’m fascinated by the lies people tell and thoroughly disheartened by how difficult it can be to tell the truth without risking privacy, employment status, or relationship.
One of the biggest lies we as a society like to tell ourselves is that we care about children, when we mostly don’t.
Our public school system is a mess, and we couldn’t give a fig whether working folks with children can earn enough to consistently put food on the table.
So yes. We may care about our own children. But we really don't care about anyone else's.
But we like to pretend we do.
At work, this fiction has major impact.
For example, consider how quickly a job applicant would be eliminated from consideration if, in response to that standard question—“Why do you want to work for ABC Company?”—she responded that she needs money to provide for her family, which is her first priority. (A truer answer than most others, I’d bet.)
Then think about how often you’re asked ("encouraged," “provided with opportunity,” or whatever you want to call it) to sacrifice personal time with your family to advance company goals and how well you’ll be regarded if your consistent response is "No thanks."
It’s common knowledge that pregnant women still face discrimination at work, as do women in general, simply because they either have children or have the potential to bear children—even though we all just love children!
And I'm reminded of something my mother once said to me: If a man really loves his children, he’ll respect his children’s mother.
A related truism? If we as a society really love children, we’ll respect their parents’ need to provide for those children.
But we don’t. Not really.
And our lie about this instigates other lies at work—lies we tell to protect our time with family and especially, the little ones (and maybe even a few not-so-little ones) who depend on us.
These lies are designed to keep our employers in the dark about how much our families mean to us, because if we’re too honest we’re bound to get labeled as not serious about work, lacking in commitment to the job, or some other nonsense.
I’ve already gone on record as stating that work-life balance doesn’t exist. My attitude is that sometimes work must take priority, and sometimes home and family must take priority.
But even that attitude isn’t good enough for some employers, who won’t view you as the best of the best unless you express a willingness to make work a priority all the time.
Ironically, whether you actually do consistently make work a priority is beside the point. Your employer is only interested in hearing the lie.
Because we are, by and large, a nation of liars.
But we don’t have to be.
So, if you’re a manager, I sure hope you do what you can to ensure your employees never feel compelled to lie about their priorities to make you feel good about the job they’re performing.
And if you’re NOT a manager, I hope you can find the balance you need to feel good about your performance as an employee and as a parent—without having to tell even a little lie to do it.