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Targets, strategies, and topics of deception among part‐time workers

Holly J. Payne (Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 25 April 2008




The purpose of this paper is to identify the targets, strategies, and topics of deception employed in the workplace among part‐time service workers.


A taxonomy of deception strategies is used to content analyze 259 narrative accounts of part‐time student employees over two work shifts using Cohen's kappa to measure interrater reliability. Chi‐square analysis is used to determine significant differences between deception strategies and deception targets.


Employees overwhelmingly concealed information and lied primarily to supervisors and customers. Employees deceived in order to cover or protect emotions, evade work, cover mistakes or policy violations, and mislead customers in order to increase sales, commission, or gratuities.

Research limitations/implications

Determining the most salient strategies employed becomes clearer if the deception account describes or reveals the employee's motivation to deceive. Future research should consider motivation of the deceiver and might compare the deception strategies of part‐time and full‐time employees of varying levels of skill, organizational commitment, and role conflict.

Practical implications

This study provides rich examples of the ethically compromising situations in which young workers find themselves, discusses the impact of workplace structures on deception and the importance of socializing young workers on honest organizational practices.


As young workers enter the workforce they are confronted with opportunities to deceive and they do so for a wide variety of reasons. Little work has been done within the organizational context investigating the most common deception strategies employed or the contextual factors influencing the use of deception among full‐time employees much less young, part‐time employees.



Payne, H.J. (2008), "Targets, strategies, and topics of deception among part‐time workers", Employee Relations, Vol. 30 No. 3, pp. 251-263.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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