FLASHPOINT: Uncovering “People Of The Lie” At Work

ZEE presented himself to be a person with a good track record as a manager in various reputable companies. He made various claims about his achievements, such as getting honors in his college days and conducting so many training programs. He carried around a large book on which his name was embossed along with other names which gave the impression that he was one of the authors. He was articulate, smart, and gained the confidence of the president of the company. He was often asked to make analyses and studies that he presented to top executives. In all his communications, he signed himself as a vice president of the company. The only thing wrong was the fact that he wasn’t. When the president found out about Zee’s claims to be VP, although he was hired as a manager, he was so charming that the top man could not bear to fire him. He continued using the title, usurping the functions of another colleague, to the consternation of his immediate boss and colleagues.

Then, little details about his qualifications were brought into question. Browsing through a book fair, a colleague saw the book Zee claimed to have co-authored and noted that Zee was not one of the authors. A professor, who taught at the school Zee claimed to have graduated and earned honors from, did not know him. Zee used to be an assistant at the Registrar’s Office of that school, where interestingly enough, he had access to student records. Despite the questions on Zee’s credentials, the president could not bear to fire him and instead asked his EVP to do so. See is still very much around in his professional circle, charming his way into the confidence of celebrities and top executives.

Kent was to all intents and purposes, a person with integrity, sensitivity, and intelligence. As a new employee, he gained the friendship and confidence of his boss, as well as a promotion that brought him to the circle of power of top executives. Then, co-employees began noticing discrepancies between what he presented himself to be and what was his real self. As his co-workers compared notes, his little lies that put other employees in a bad light were discovered. But since they were petty matters, people didn’t mind them at first. Eventually, after engineering a project that endangered the jobs of many colleagues, he blamed the fiasco on an executive who immediately denounced his claim. Confronted with the facts by his new boss, a top executive in the company, Kent appeared humbled, apologized to all concerned for his “honest” mistake but did not admit that he deliberately lied just to save his career.


Did these persons deliberately set out to lie about themselves and other people just to get ahead? Or did they just commit honest mistakes that make other people jump to the wrong conclusions? Since these stories are composites of various true events of several real people at work, the scary thing is, most ordinary people would easily give people like Zee and Kent the benefit of the doubt and accept them for what they present to be. The scarier thing is Zee and Kent may be so good at the art of deception that they themselves may believe their own lies to be true.

Dr. Scott Peck, psychotherapist and author of the book, “People of the Lie” will most likely say that they are in fact “people of the lie” or people who are, to use a rather strong word, “evil.”

For peck, evil (spelled “live” backwards) is in opposition to life. This is usually associated with criminal activities such as murder. But for Peck, evil lurks not only in killers of the human life but killers of the human spirit. For anyone who effectively kills the human spirit, makes him a zombie, devoid of all life.

In the workplace, the frailties of man are magnified a hundred times. Gossip, acts of unkindness, petty jealousies and other unethical behavior run the gamut of work life. However, in those corridors of business walk people like Zee and Kent, who are “people of the lie.” the masters of deception. By their obsession to promote their careers, they rise roughshod on other people’s lives with nary a trace of guilt or even awareness of unethical behavior.

Everyday Life

Peck writes that evil can be encountered in everyday life. And work being so much part of human life, it is not surprising that it can be seen there as well. In order that people can recognize it, Peck has this to say, “…evil may be recognized by its very disguise. The lie can be perceived before the misdeed it is designed to hide the cover-up before the fact. We see the smile before the hatred, the smooth and oily manner that masks the fury, the velvet glove that covers the fist. Because they are experts at disguise, it is seldom possible to pinpoint the maliciousness of the evil. The disguise is usually impenetrable.”

With people like Zee and Kent, with their nice public image, people could so easily say that they were just misunderstood and not realize that they are already victims of the deception. Zee and Kent’s mastery of lying that they can even attract the loyalty of good people or smart people who are virtually blinded by their wish to always see the “good” in people. But then, when situations like these happen, people should be more alert and try to discern the truth in order to uncover such “people of the lie.”

Peck writes that lying is both a symptom and a cause of evil, the cause and the manifestation, and the blossom and the root. Thus, when one uncovers a lie, it may be that evil is not far behind.

Peck says that such “people of the lie” are not people who merely have mental disorders and forthwith describes them to exhibit the following:

• consistent destructive, scapegoating behavior, which may often be quite subtle

• excessive, albeit usually covert, intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury

• pronounced concern with a public image and self-image of respectability, contributing to a stability of lifestyle but also to pretentiousness and denial of hateful feelings or vengeful motives

• intellectual deviousness, with an increased likelihood of a mild schizophrenic like disturbance of thinking in times of stress


Like any other illness, the ability to correctly diagnose the illness is a prerequisite to its cure. Thus, Peck’s categorization of evil people and evil behavior is not a rush to prejudging the soul of a person, but an attempt to provide people a tool to correctly identify evil persons and evil behavior. In so doing, he says that it is for the sake of the victims themselves, to enable them to heal.

In his experiences in providing psychotherapy to “evil persons,” Peck as found our that bringing the person closer to accepting truths about himself and others helps in the “exorcism” of the evil in the person. He also says that the healing of evil can be accomplished by the love of individuals and that a willing sacrifice is required.

He writes, “I know that good people can deliberately allow themselves to be pierced by the evil of others – to be broken thereby yet somehow not broken – to even be killed in some sense and yet still survive and not succumb. Whenever this happens, there is a slight shift in the balance of power in the world.”

Peck’s putting forward this psychology of evil places time-honored values of honesty and integrity in the center of the fight against evil. By placing lies under the microscope of truth, “people of the lie” are uncovered. Honesty and integrity are also the twin swords that can protect people from being possessed by evil. These values are relevant not only at work but in all aspects of our lives. It will give us discernment and strength to renew our moral values.

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. First published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer December 20, 2000.

Photo credit: www.sxc.hu


Founding Editor, People at Work, Business, Phiippine Daily Inquirer

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