10 lies managers tell themselves

When a manager hides behind a lie to feel better, the impact can be destructive and far-reaching. BNET's Steve Tobak looks at some lies you may have encountered.

We all lie to ourselves. Why, I don't know. Guess self-delusion is part of the human condition, whatever that means. I'm sure a relatively competent shrink can explain it, but who needs all that psychobabble, right?

What got me thinking about this was someone on Michael Finney's consumer watchdog radio show explaining five lies people tell themselves so they can buy stuff they can't afford: I could have bought something more expensive so I'm actually saving money, it's an investment, I deserve it because something good happened, I'm comforting myself because something bad happened, that sort of thing.

Here's the problem. Usually when we lie to ourselves we're hurting only ourselves; worst case, our families. But with managers, it's a whole different ballgame. When managers lie to themselves they can hurt a lot of people. The bigger the title, the more people they can hurt. CEOs can hurt shareholders, employees, and customers by the thousands. Hell, they can take down a whole company. I've seen self-delusional executives destroy once-great companies lots of times. Sad but true.

But wait, managers are only human, right? They're allowed to make mistakes. Sure. Mistakes are one thing. But saying things to comfort yourself and prop up your fragile ego so you don't have to face the truth because it scares you or something is an entirely different thing.

Do I sound angry? Sorry. Guess the topic hits sort of close to home.

Note: This article originally appeared as an entry in BNET's The Corner Office blog. It's also available as a PDF download.

1: I know what customers want

CEOs often think they know what customers want. Actually they don't. They just know what they want, and they're usually not even in the target demographic.

2: We have the best (fill in the blank)

Technology, marketing, customer service, whatever. Typically, this is self-delusional BS, boastfulness, or ego transference (if there is such a thing).

3: It'll fix itself

When they don't want to do something that's a pain in the you-know-what.

4: Our customers love us

Usually a way to keep people from asking questions they don't want to hear so they don't have to learn the truth that they don't want to know.

5: My employees love me

Same thing as with customers.

6: Out of sight, out of mind

AKA solving a problem by ignoring it, firing it, or otherwise making believe it doesn't exist.

7: It's probably for their own good

Also "They'll land on their feet." Usually when they demote or fire somebody, or during a layoff.

8: The ends justify the means

Comforting themselves when they've done something terrible to others.

9: I know what the execs want

He probably doesn't; he's just afraid to ask or doesn't want you to go over his head.

10: It's my company

In small business, this is often true, but for CEOs of corporations, almost never. So why say it? I don't know -- is there such a thing as ego extension?

So what's the solution to the problem? You really need to ask? If you're a manager, don't do that! Grow a pair and face the truth. Board directors, beware of self-delusional executives. As for directors who prefer hearing sugar-coated BS, well, "May you be reincarnated as an NBC executive!"

Anyway, those are my 10 lies, but there must be hundreds. I know you've got a few so, come on, spill it.