Two researchers at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business pored through 30,000 conference calls made by CEOs and CFOs over a period of four years, studying each for word choice and delivery. The result: They figured out common tells for lying bosses.
News magazine The Economist reports:
Deceptive bosses, it transpires, tend to make more references to general knowledge (“as you know…”), and refer less to shareholder value (perhaps to minimise the risk of a lawsuit, the authors hypothesise). They also use fewer “non-extreme positive emotion words”. That is, instead of describing something as “good”, they call it “fantastic”. The aim is to “sound more persuasive” while talking horsefeathers.
When they are lying, bosses avoid the word “I”, opting instead for the third person. They use fewer “hesitation words”, such as “um” and “er”, suggesting that they may have been coached in their deception.