How Much Does a Lie Cost?


I was asked once how much a lie costs and I didn’t know how to answer the question. I decided to find out and began to research the cost difference between truthfulness and lying.

There is a surprising amount of research on the topic and I was pleased that by doing some relatively simple analysis I was actually able to determine the actually cost of a lie.

Clearly there is a difference in cost factor depending on the size of the lie. It’s kind of like purchasing a house, typically a bigger house will cost more than a smaller house. So it is with a lie.

I should point out for my friends around the world that my analysis was done in dollars so you’ll need to do the conversion to your currency yourself. The cost, in dollars for a small lie, the kind we might call a “white lie” was as you can imagine, pretty small, coming in at $4.13 per lie.

The amazing thing, the cost of a huge lie, a friendship breaking lie, or the kind of lie that can land you in jail is a whopping $21,843.21.

I imagine that many of you would like to know how I came up with those numbers so let me explain. I made them up… I lied!

So, you mad? Feel like a sucker? How is my credibility doing? I had you for a while, didn’t I? You’ve read a rather long way into this post, invested some time and trusted me. All that, just to be lied to.

The way you’re feeling now is the same way other people feel when you are less than honest with them. It hurts, the hurt is hard to shake. The hurt lasts, sometimes a very long time.

When you lie you damage your credibility and credibility just might be the hardest thing in the world to repair. I’d bet people would lie a lot less if there was actually a dollar cost associated with each lie. Too bad they don’t realize how much their credibility is really worth.

Here is the one absolute truth in this post….your credibility is priceless. There is no amount of money that can buy it back once it’s gone and there is nothing in the world worth trading your integrity for.

When you lose your integrity you also lose your opportunity to lead. There are clearly dishonest people in leadership positions but there are no dishonest authentic leaders.

Think about that the next time the truth seems to hard to tell.

Truth be Told!


Are you a leader that appreciates the truth? Are you a leader that not only allows but also encourages your people to tell you the truth?

Your answer to those two questions doesn’t really matter. The only question, and answer, that really matters is this one: Do your people trust you enough to tell you the truth?

The truth be told, in way too many organizations the answer to that last question is a resounding NO!

Here’s a sad fact of leadership that I’ve discovered through the years. Many, many leaders would rather be told what they want to hear rather than be told the actual truth.

These leaders believe a difference of opinion or a challenge to one of their ideas is a challenge to their authority. They treat it as a sign of disrespect and they have been known to hold a grudge for a long time. As a result, they not only limit the potential of their organizations today, they limit it for many tomorrows too.

They “teach” their people that the only truth that matters is the one that the “leader” wants to hear. Leaders drop phrases into conversations like “let’s be careful” and “I think you’re wrong” in order to slow down or even silence the dissenting, truthful voices.

If I want to give a leader the benefit of the doubt I would say they aren’t even aware they are doing that but I’m afraid in many cases it is absolutely intentional. It’s just easier for some leaders to handle the truth as they want it to be rather than the truth as it actually is.

Here’s an interesting check on what kind of leader you really are: when was the last time you made a major (or even a minor) change in a decision based on input from your team? Asked another way; when was the last time you allowed your team, or a member of your team, to overrule you?

If it’s been more than 30 days then either they aren’t telling you the truth or you aren’t listening. Either way, the outcome is the same, the truth has likely died at your hands.

Have you ever heard the saying “great minds think alike?” Well, it’s completely wrong, great minds most certainly do not think alike. If you have a room full of smart people then you also have a room full of different opinions and thoughts. If your people are too timid to share those opinions and thoughts then YOU are failing as a leader.

If one of your goals of leadership is to build more leaders then don’t just allow your people to be truthful with you, encourage it, reward it, and most of all show them that there will be no repercussions.