Suddenly, Sam had that feeling that he had forgotten something – the feeling that can make us feel a bit queasy or bring on a cold sweat. He then realized what it was: he had totally forgotten to tell his project steering committee about the change request from the branch office that he got when he visited two weeks ago. The branch manager’s administrative assistant handed him a hard copy as he was about to leave for the airport. Sam put the change request into a folder with a bunch of other papers, jumped into a cab, and completely forgot about it.
The problem Sam now faced was that the steering committee had just had a meeting the day before to go over open issues and change requests. Many of the members were now going on a long business trip and he wouldn’t have enough people present to approve or reject changes. He could call a virtual meeting but most of them hated virtual meetings and only used them for emergencies. This wasn’t an emergency, unless… Then Sam noticed that there was no evidence that he had received the change request – no paper trail, no email trail. He thought he could pretend that he had only just received it and that the branch was making a big fuss about it so it had to be treated as an emergency. He could always pretend he didn’t know what happened to the copy the assistant gave him.
Despite feeling a bit uneasy, Sam decided to pretend he hadn’t received the request. This way he would save face with his steering committee, and the branch manager would still get a decision on her change request. The administrative assistant might get in trouble, but Sam was willing to take that risk. He waited for the branch manager to contact him about the request and then he could call an emergency virtual meeting.
When Sam spoke to the branch manager, she was a bit annoyed and didn’t seem to believe that her assistant hadn’t given Sam the request. But she was satisfied with Sam’s plan and thanked him for his sense of urgency. Sam was so convincing that he almost believed his own lie – he hadn’t even paused to feel guilty.
Sam’s story really highlights the dangers of lying. If you lie to someone, you damage your relationship with them, even if they don’t know you’re lying. When you tell a lie, you start to believe it yourself and it becomes part of you. Instead of learning from your mistakes, you cover them up. It would have been awkward for Sam to admit he had forgotten the request, but it would have been much better in the long run. He would have gained respect from the steering committee, the assistant and the branch manager, and most importantly, from himself.