All the World’s a Stage — Deception in Management

Deception in management is more common than we care to admit. Shakespeare already understood this more than four centuries ago:

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.1.

Professional social network site LinkedIn has surveyed to analyse buzzwords in user profiles. It seems that almost everybody on LinkedIn is creative and effective. These are, however, vague statements as creativity and effectiveness are not fixed states of mind but variables on a sliding scale.

The use of meaningless buzzwords is pandemic across the globe, although there are regional differences. Professionals from countries with a high level of individualism prefer to be creative, i.e. have individual and original ideas.2 While in Spain, a country with a high tendency towards uncertainty avoidance, prefer to be perceived as ‘managerial’. Most Italians are problem solvers, which is not surprising given the perpetual state of seeming disorder.

Deception in Management

Deception in management forms an integral part of being human. All the Deception in Management is as common as deception in the world outside the office. Our self is not an innate property of the person; it is carefully constructed. Sociologist Erving Goffman uses a theatrical metaphor, inspired by Shakespeare’s lines opening this post. We use scripts, buy props and create backdrops for the roles we lay in society.

Professional life is, however, a particular case as the selves we create in the workplace are mostly very different from that which we are in personal experience. Sociologicst Erving Goffman once wrote that deception is common among executives:3

… blinding themselves and others to the fact that they hold their jobs partly because they look like executives, not because they can work like executives.

The prevalence of deception in our daily lives and at work implies that managers can learn from magicians about how to best present themselves. Work is, after all, merely a play.


  1. William Shakespeare, As you like it.
  2. Geert Hofstede, (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  3. Erving Goffman (1959), The presentation of self in everyday life, Anchor Books.

One Reply to “All the World’s a Stage — Deception in Management”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.