The vast majority of company directors and senior managers believe it is wrong for their employees to lie to them. But almost half are comfortable with those same employees telling untruths on their behalf to their customers.
And according to the annual Aziz Management Communications Index, female bosses are more comfortable with lies in the workplace than their male counterparts.
Only seven per cent of British bosses feel that it is acceptable for an employee to tell an occasional lie to them, according to the research.
But more than a third (37 per cent) believe it is acceptable for their employees to tell white lies to customers, while nearly half (46 per cent) think telling untruths is acceptable if this could safeguard the company.
The research also found that slightly more bosses (11 per cent) find poor timekeeping more acceptable than lying, perhaps suggesting that the inveterate liar would be better not to turn up to work at all.
In contrast, surfing the internet during office hours, sending personal emails and making personal phone calls are now considered acceptable by 36 per cent, 83 per cent and 85 per cent of bosses respectively.
Attitudes to lying in the workplace appear to depend, at least in part, on the purpose of the lie. While only two per cent of bosses believe it is acceptable to lie to take sick leave, and just three per cent when making an expenses claim, 14 per cent are comfortable with employees lying on their CVs and 24 per cent about being late for a meeting.
Meanwhile when it comes to lying in the workplace, women seem to be more comfortable telling untruths themselves, or with their staff lying for them, than men.
One in 10 women think that the occasional lie is acceptable from employees, compared with only six per cent of men. Almost a quarter (22 per cent) per cent are comfortable with their staff lying about missed deadlines, compared with 12 per cent of men.
One in three female bosses are happy for their employees to lie to cover for a colleague, compared with fewer than one in five men. And displaying a marked Machiavellian streak, six out of 10 women believe it is right to tell an untruth to save an organisation, compared to only four out of 10 men.
Professor Khalid Aziz, Chairman of The Aziz Corporation, said he was surprised that so many senior business leaders regard occasional lies from employees as more acceptable then poor time keeping and no worse than absenteeism.
“Most remarkable is that 14 per cent of senior management felt that it was acceptable for an employee to lie when writing their CV. This very serious breach of confidence was regarded as more acceptable than taking a ‘sickie’ or fiddling an expense claim," he said.
"Honesty may not always be the best policy from a business point of view, but it should certainly be something that senior managers should encourage amongst their staff," he added.
"The damage that can be done to their personal reputation and that of their company is often difficult to recover from. It is important for senior staff to lead by example.”