[We are pleased to welcome Trish Reay, Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies.]
In spite of the fact that lying is an endemic feature of social life, organizational researchers to date have almost ignored the topic. In the Organization Studies article Trusted to Deceive: A Case Study of ‘Strategic Deception’ and the Normalization of Lying at Work, authors Sarah Jenkins and Rick Delbridge investigate how lying can become institutionalized, rationalized and socialized into the structure and culture of an organization. They conducted an in-depth case study of VoiceTel (pseudonym) an organization that provides virtual reception services for businesses; telephone calls are answered by receptionists who conceal their geographic location when speaking with clients. As a result, deception becomes a strategic feature of business models in virtual service work.
Jenkins and Delbridge develop a model to explain how deception can become established and normalized so that employees accept lying as an intrinsic and enjoyable feature of their work, allowing them the opportunity to be creative and inventive. These features help to explain how lying can become embedded, maintained and strengthened over time in organizations, and as a result deception can become positively linked with providing good customer service. Jenkins and Delbridge also provide insights into the broader consideration of how workplace practices are institutionalized – examining how ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ processes can dynamically support the perpetuation of individual and collective practices. I invite you to read the whole article to find out how employees can learn to take joy from lying for a living.
The abstract for the paper:
Lying is an endemic feature of social life but has remained under-researched in organization studies. This paper examines the case of VoiceTel, a market leader in the high-quality virtual reception business that practised ‘strategic deception’ (Patwardhan et al., 2009). Receptionists concealed that they were not physically located in their clients’ premises and lying was an intrinsic and enduring feature of their work. We adapt and extend Ashforth and Anand’s (2003) ‘normalization of corruption’ framework to develop a new model of the ‘normalization of lying’. We examine how lying becomes institutionalized, rationalized and socialized into the structure and culture of an organization such that it becomes embedded, maintained and strengthened over time as a legitimate and integral part of the job. Our model of normalization integrates organizational and group levels to examine the significance and interaction of ‘bottom-up’ as well as ‘top-down’ processes. Employees gained recognition from their proficiency in deception and drew considerable satisfaction, self-esteem and status as employees who are ‘trusted to deceive’.
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