Does Lying Kill Your Career? Not At Certain Levels

It was reported today that business mogul Bethenny Frankel’s recent dramatic tale of being lost at sea was not so dramatic at all. In fact it didn’t really happen even though Bethenny told any media outlet that would listen that it went down that way. The man who “rescued” the reality star and her husband last month after their boat supposedly broke down near Nantucket now says it was all scripted for her Bravo show, Bethenny Ever After. Is this a career killer for Bethenny?

According to BNET writer Steve Tobak, though you may get caught in a lie, it is not necessarily a career killer, at least for people in business and if the lie isn’t that scandalous. Tobak cited former Broadcom Senior VP Vahid Manian and Microsemi CEO James Peterson as examples:

While Microsemi’s board determined that Peterson lied about having two degrees from Brigham Young University, as well as in a press release when he “categorically denied” the allegations, they ultimately did nothing about it. To this day, Peterson’s still got his CEO job.

As for Manian: While he was indeed fired from Broadcom for fabricating two degrees from the University of California at Irvine, he was recently named senior VP of business operations at Telegent Systems. He was also named to the technical advisory board of Symwave. While working for a startup is a far cry from $5 billion Broadcom, he’s still essentially got the same job.

When it comes to senior executives, lies and even fraud do not always mean career suicide. Though there are some examples where they were punished, there are more that show lying did not hurt their careers at all. For politicians it probably does and for Bethenny Frankel, people may question what she does next and ask her why she lied, but I do not think this will hurt the sales of Skinnygirl Margarita. However, lying can be a career killer if you do it on your resume. With employee background checks becoming more sophisticated all the time, if you lie about employment, it is almost guaranteed you will be caught and fired. As for lying about your salary or title at a former company this is also a danger zone. If you tell your potential employer a false number for your salary they can call and find out and you will not get the job. Suzanne Lucas of BNET wrote:

If you write down you made $95,000 a year because your salary was $75,000 and your other benefits were worth at least $20,000 a year, you will be promptly dumped into the “do not hire” bin when your former company says, “I cannot confirm a salary of $95,000 per year.”  Or when they ask for your old W2s (also happens), you’ll be sputtering to explain why it doesn’t match up.

Okay, so what if you only lie about your salary to other people, not job applications?  People talk.  And eventually, your fantastic salary will get back to a coworker.  This coworker will be angry that you’re making so much “more” than she is.  She will complain to the boss.  The boss will think that you are the idiot.  Not exactly what you want.

If your title was something stupid and inexplicable, so you change it to a commonly held term (i.e. from Company Rockstar to Public Affairs Specialist), that nice HR lackey that answers the phone will say, “No, I’m sorry,  her title wasn’t Public Affairs Specialist,” and again, you’re in the do not hire, ever list.  To further complicate matters, the company won’t tell you that the reason they aren’t hiring you is because of a failed background check.  They just won’t make an offer.  So, you’ll keep lying and keep getting rejected.


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