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The Why Behind the Lies
This article is written by longtime tech Shaun McCann sharing his experiences with a big problem in our trade. Thanks for this, Shaun.
I started in the HVAC business working for a small commercial union shop in the late '80s. I left that job within a year and worked in the bar and restaurant business for many years. I went back to school and learned my trade, ultimately landing a job with an outstanding company.
When I first got hired, I was sent to work within the residential department, doing new construction installations. I worked with a man who had gone through major trouble in his life and now had found God. He actually swore once, then made an overly dramatic statement about how he does not normally swear. He often spoke about some land he purchased and his desire to utilize it for a Bible study camp. He was also very active with his church.
The irony about this gentleman is I watched him put a great deal of effort into stealing from the company and, in some ways, his coworkers.
When I first started, the service manager had placed new company tools on a cart for my van. This guy took it upon himself to swap out the tools with his older ones. He went as far a telling me he was instructed to do so with one item. He would later teach me about how we should leave early but also should put down a full day's work on our timesheet, as that's just how it worked. Amazingly, he was a wolf in sheep's clothing, touting the Bible yet robbing the company in every way he could while making justifications for his actions.
I really enjoyed my job and newfound career. I made mistakes but worked hard to correct them and looked forward to advancement.
Six months in, I was called in for a review. My service manager told me, “You are one of the fastest—no, you are the fastest new hire we have ever had work on his own. ” He added, “I see no reason we shouldn't put you in the union, and I will send you for the next test.”
I remember my excitement and calling my girlfriend to share the great news! The next test was just a few months away.
A few months came and passed, and nothing happened. A coworker knew I was upset, and I explained why. Being a friend, he mentioned my feelings to the service manager, and the service manager stated he never said that. I approached the service manager later and was told, “I do not recall saying that.” I walked away from that in complete confusion. I've now learned when you hear “I don't recall” or ” I believe,” the lie is often being constructed directly in front of you.
The check is in the mail
I later talked with my service manager and got him to commit to placing me in the union, as the test was coming up the following month. When it came time, I was told, “I'm not sure what happened, as the union never received my letter.” I basically lost it and was assured I would be going to the next test.
Finally, I was able to join the union.
In the years that followed, I worked on accounts that others wanted no part of, and I was lied to or manipulated constantly. I had a technician call the office to get me out to a building and saying the customer specifically wanted me when the customer called them. The aforementioned happened consistently.
My purpose is to look into why many in this trade become amazing liars and (hopefully) how to prevent it.
I think it would be fair to say that there are people in our trade who entered as liars, those who became liars, and some who walk the line and try to do the right thing but are hobbled by others' abilities to lie.
Why we lie
Companies come in all shapes and sizes, and more importantly, different company cultures. A manager may like to keep his employees in constant fear as a means to maintain productivity. A manager may want competition amongst employees and believes the workforce not getting along is good for the bottom line.
I attended a class once where the seasoned instructor talked about a job he did and forgot to install a critical metal ring. He immediately spoke of not wanting to have to tell his boss of his need to return. I was amazed by a tech of his caliber not being able to admit his mistake. Everyone makes mistakes, no one is perfect, and it really is a part of the business.
Laziness – We just don't want to be bothered. We are tired and maybe too busy outside of work.
Lack of care – Let me get my eight and run home.
Getting ahead – We like making others look bad or stay away from things that are too challenging, so we always shine.
Covering up for others – We don't want to make others look bad, including the company.
Putting our customers at ease – Probably the number one thing that makes a truthful person into a liar.
Omission – Sometimes, it's the things we leave out that can cause the most harm.
I can say I have worked with a lot of liars in my day but never the caliber of the HVAC business, and I find that disheartening. Teamwork is spoken of in meetings, but it often goes out the window once it ends.
I strive to be part of a team and work towards a common goal, but that often is just not possible. I instead try to go to work every day and do my job to the best of my ability.
Lying is like a drug that you consume more of to increase the end result in your favor. Lying behavior can be easy to spot by voice inflection and other body movements. However, some people are amazing at it.
When you first start in the trade, you make mistakes and slip up on a diagnosis or repair, and you don't want to damage the integrity of the company. Every technician has worked on something and said he fixed it but walked away, hoping he fixed it.
Do we tell that to our customers? Normally not. Walking away with a customer thinking you kind of fixed their equipment is frowned upon. The lies grow from there. The noise you don't notice at 2:30 on a Friday? That's the “It was not doing that when I was there” line. One of my favorites is the one where they say, “I was not involved with that project or repair,” so that they get someone else.
The number of lies and manipulations I've caught people in that I just absorbed and moved on from is staggering. I am certain to some I am perceived as naive, but I realized early on it was easier to do the task and let the liar think they fooled me. The fact is that my earnings were positive, and I learned.
The funny thing is that we know who the liars are around us, but we cannot remedy them. We just accept it and counter their lies with our lies. Hence, the cycle continues. There are times throughout our career where we make mistakes, others make mistakes, or the company makes mistakes. The unfortunate thing is we must, in some regard, remain silent to remain employed and retain customers.
The main thing we must accept is the lies will not cease.
We must look beyond and view the bigger pictures. A lot of these people will filter through the company, and you will not have to deal with them directly. Keep your cards close to you until you get a feel for those around you. Limit the amount of personal information you share with a coworker you are working with on any given day. Technicians work alone a lot, and thus they seem to talk when working together. Try to remain on point until you have a relationship with someone beyond the one-day task. The manager who lies constantly warrants two solutions. The first being to accept it, and the second seeking new employment.
A word of caution
You will find some of the biggest liars are highly entrenched in an organization. Engaging them constantly and complaining about their manipulations and half-truths will make you stand out as the problem, so beware of the path you are about to travel.
On a final note, knowledge is key! The more training you get, the less the lies affect you. Your need to rely on others diminishes proportionally to your abilities and increases the confidence you have in your repairs and decisions. The higher confidence level trickles down to the office and customer perception of you.
Most of all… Just tell the truth and break the chain