How to protect your credibility in a world of liars, cheats and vagabonds

how to protect your credibility
What did you say about me?

Over the past few years I’ve dealt with some service providers who occasionally just says things that simply aren’t true. The interesting thing is, I know they aren’t true, but they still say them anyway. The problem is, they are saying them to other people who may not know the truth of such statements.

As a leader, you’ll sometimes come up against these types of people and you’ll need to understand how to protect your credibility. They aren’t pleasant and they are extremely tiring, but there are ways to resist the damage that they are trying to do to you and your organisation’s reputation.

Why people try to cast aspersions on your credibility

People make false statements and cast aspersions because they are usually trying to deflect blame. They often know they are in the wrong, or on the back foot, or behind schedule, so this is a way for them to try to get back on level terms.

Unfortunately, these people try to do this by dragging others down, rather than lifting themselves up.

“We have never seen this report before”

Occasionally this provider will say that they were never given something, or they’ve never seen something before. “This is the first I’ve heard of it”, they say.

I can counter this, because I can say that it was in the email they received a month ago. I can even show them the email. The problem is, the other people in the room don’t necessarily know this is the truth, so your credibility is getting a slap in the face because of your perceived failure to communicate.

“Bob reviewed and confirmed the configuration”

Watch out for this type of statement. It can be used when somebody is trying to make it sound like you have given your approval for something, when really, maybe you’ve only just had a meeting about it and you were expecting a formal document later.

The danger is that what you have “confirmed” may be half-baked, and in reality, you never had the chance to confirm it. The next thing you know, someone is saying to you in two months’ time – “But I thought you had confirmed it?”

“We’ve all been adversely affected by…”

This is an interesting statement because it tries to group everybody together to make it seem like the fault is not with any one entity, but shared amongst the group. That would be fine, it it were true. In several cases, it wasn’t. The issues were with one particular party, not all.

This technique is used by people who want to share the blame, when the blame should actually be apportioned to them alone. It is a diversionary tactic that’s used to put people on a level playing field, when the playing field shouldn’t at all be level.

How to protect your credibility from people who issue false statements

You need to speak up, quickly and loudly

When you notice these sorts of statements – no matter how innocuous they might be, you need to nip them in the bud. The damage is not caused by hearing the statements yourself, but from the potential tarnishing of your reputation in the eyes of others.

What these statements do is introduce doubt into the listener’s mind. Maybe they never sent them the report so they couldn’t do the work? They said they reviewed and confirmed it, but there are mistakes…so they can’t have done a good job…

This is why you have to jump on false statements when somebody says them in your earshot. You need to state matter-of-factly what really happened and be able to provide the evidence. Not only does the fabricator need to hear this, but also the people that they are lying to. The damage is done by what others are hearing – the fabricator already knows they are lying, it does no good to try to convince them.

When you do rebut someone’s false statements, be as calm as possible. Quietly state that this isn’t the case, and say why. Don’t call anybody a liar – you won’t need to. It will be obvious.

You need to be as transparent, honest and communicative as possible

One of the best ways to counter any perceived slights on your credibility is to be transparent with the various parties involved. If you can continuously show your approach, the status of what you’re doing and proposed schedule while quickly relaying any issues, you will be seen as credible and trustworthy.

What you want to avoid are lengthy delays in communication, where other parties “fill in the gaps” with their own stories. When you don’t say anything for long periods, others just might assume there is a problem, even where there isn’t one. If there is a problem, communicate it early – better to know now, than blindside everyone later. Remember the rule of no surprises.

When you are transparent, honest and communicate often, this will also protect you when people say things about you or your organisation when you aren’t in the room. Others will already have the correct information, so it is harder for your credibility to be questioned.

Doing a good job builds trust and credibility

Another good way to fight off attacks against your reputation is to simply do a good job, and be seen to be doing so. When someone attacks your credibility with others in the room, having a track record of being trustworthy and doing a good job makes it very difficult for those others to believe the lies.

If you have shown yourself to be untrustworthy for any reason, these are chinks in your armour that could find you having to fight to regain your credibility.

Unfortunately, these people will appear in your working life from time to time and you will have to resist their battering of your reputation and credibility.

They know they’re wrong, and they know what they’re doing. Do a good job, communicate often and hose down any lies before they turn into a bonfire.

Be careful out there!


Have people said stuff about you or your team in an attempt to undermine your organisation? If so, I’d love to hear about it! Write a comment or send me a message.

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