# Am I being asked to lie in my job?

I work in a call center. If I can’t fix something remotely, I schedule a technician to go fix it. A supervisor gave directions to everyone to only book appointments for technicians after the end of this month. Note that the scheduling system we use to book appointments still shows availability in this month that we can select. The other day I had a client who said “I don’t believe you have no technicians available for over a week”. It suddenly struck me, she’s right. In a sense I feel I’ve been told to lie. In this situation I booked them a tech for this month, but got in trouble with management (I had initially been under the impression this wasn't a firm rule, but apparently it is).

Their reasoning for this new rule has something to do with business/revenue/end of year stuff that I’m not really privy to.

My question is, am I lying to clients by saying I can’t book them a technician to fix their problem sooner than next month? If yes, what can I do? Most clients are individuals, not businesses. I'm totally open to the possibility that I'm looking at this completely the wrong way.

EDIT: not that it invalidates answers, but I am sure that if I do schedule a technician before the end of this month, and a supervisor doesn't remove the scheduling, then the technician would show up and do his job. So it's not a matter of not having none available.

• It's not that the technicians are unavailable, it's that you don't have them available. Subtle difference... – Mehrdad Aug 25 '17 at 2:51
• Not an answer, but it's important to distinguish between "literally 100% unavailable" and "unavailable for all intents and purposes". Example: I was trapped in my apartment a few months ago because of intense floods. If someone asked if I were available, I'd have said no. Technically though, I could have swam through all the water, gotten an Uber, and been driven wherever I needed to go, but was I really lying by saying I was unavailable? Management gets to make the call if technicians are unavailable "for all intents and purposes". Whether or not it's technically possible is irrelevant. – Lord Farquaad Aug 25 '17 at 13:31
• If they company is not allowing you do book the time, then there is no availability, you are not lying. It does not matter if the availability is because they are booked or if finances do not allow them to be scheduled until next month, they are not available. – dlb Aug 25 '17 at 15:17
• "I am sure that if I do schedule a technician before the end of this month, and a supervisor doesn't remove the scheduling, then the technician would show up and do his job" -- if that is actually true - and I find it hard to believe - then there's still a good chance in many circumstances that those technicians would have difficulty getting paid for the appointment. That the software would only allow the scheduling of actually-possible appointments is not typically a reasonable assumption. Imagine having a checkbook and being told "don't pay any more this month", but writing checks anyway. – Darren Ringer Aug 25 '17 at 17:25
• "business/revenue/end of year stuff " sure sounds like a middle-manager gaming the quarterly budget reports to get themselves a bonus. While that is purely conjecture without more info, and doesn't affect your position directly (current answers cover that well), it may indicate that this is not a place you want to work long-term. You could consider mentioning the instructions to someone above the supervisor in question (which is certainly in customers' best interests, and probably the company's as well), but don't be surprised if side-stepping the command chain comes back to bite you. – brichins Aug 25 '17 at 19:22

## 14 Answers

Your supervisor has told you that there is no technician available for this month. You are not lying if you tell your customers exactly that.

Why there is no technician available, whether they are all busy or the whole crew was fired or it's not economically viable for the company to send one this month is none of your business (your supervisor did not tell you) and none of the clients business either.

The fact that your scheduling software displays a green icon, does not mean there actually is a technician available. It's just a piece of software.

The client is free to decide that they want to take their business to a competitor with better availability of technicians, but again, that's their decision, not yours and it's probably not based on why your technicians are unavailable. As I client, I don't care why you cannot service me. If you cannot, I will go to somebody who can.

To the best of your knowledge, you cannot send a technician this month. That is the truth.

The question pops up again and I have already answered it in comments once, but they got deleted: why is the why none of the clients business? Because they shouldn't care. The only thing you need to know as a customer is whether there is a competitor who can deliver a better package.

If you get bad service (for example cold fries) you ask for better service (hot fries) and if that cannot be delivered, you go to a competitor that can. As a customer, I don't care why my fries are cold. There is no explanation that would make me go "oh ok if that's the reason why, I will come back tomorrow and get another bag of cold fries."

Asking why only signals that as a customer you will not go with the better package, but with the better salesman/sob story.

• "and none of the clients business either" - huh? From a client's point of view, I would say it is pretty relevant why there is no technician available. As you state, I am "free to decide that [I] want to take [my] business to a competitor", but I can only do that in an informed way if I know the whole story. Is there no technician available because technicians are rare and hiring new ones takes a while? Reasonable, I'll stay. Or is it because the monthly budget for technician missions is already exhausted? Implies bad planning, but maybe it's compensated for by other positive aspects ... – O. R. Mapper Aug 24 '17 at 22:24
• ... of the company. Or is it because clients are, as a general rule, intentionally "left hanging" for a couple of weeks so as to make the expensive premium service (where technicians are sent immediately) artificially better? I'd call that borderline fraudulent and nothing could stop me from switching the company in that case. Your answer is valid in that the OP would do a good job in saying "According to my superior, no technicians are available.", but as a client, I would then insist to talk to the superior and have them explain the reasons to me. – O. R. Mapper Aug 24 '17 at 22:26
• It is not true that reasons are not of interest to the client: if you get bad service once, in order to evaluate whether a competitor is likely to give you better service, it is helpful to know why the bad service happened. If I get cold fries because, I dunno, "our fry-making robot malfunctioned but he's being repaired and he's usually very reliable", I might give them a second chance; if it's because "we basically can't be bothered to get your fries to you while they're still hot", I'll almost certainly go to a competitor. Perfect competition requires perfect information. – psmears Aug 25 '17 at 13:46
• If you get bad service (for example cold fries) you ask for better service (hot fries) and if that cannot be delivered, you go to a competitor that can Unless there are no competitors due to local monopolies. In which case the consumer has plenty of interest in why they have no service and why it cannot be resolved in a timely manner. Have you not dealt with cable companies? – Douglas Gaskell Aug 26 '17 at 2:12
• I frequently care why service is bad. It effects my decision of whether to continue as a customer. I can think of MANY reasons why you may get cold fries and its just a 1 off bad experience. The heat lamps are broken and the repairman is coming this afternoon. Some of the workers didn't show up and the remainder were overworked. They were warm when I ordered them, but I took half n hour to pick them up. The reason is very important. – Gabe Sechan Aug 27 '17 at 5:03

From a point of view of human decency yes, this might be called lying.

From the POV of professionalism your superior has decided that there are no resources available, even if you scheduling system does not reflect this. So as far as you are concerned you are not lying, your are relaying a company policy. If you have an issue with that you should probably take this up with your superiors instead of ignoring their orders.

Kudos, though, for thinking about your clients first (to the point of risking your job for their convenience).

• Why is it lying? The software says there are technicians available, and the supervisor says there aren't. Why do you trust the software's word over the supervisor? – Brandin Aug 24 '17 at 11:14
• @Brandin The OP trusts the software's word over the supervisor because the OP knows what the supervisor is doing. The supervisor is intentionally withholding technicians that are in fact available (are on the job, aren't doing anything else, will be doing nothing if not booked) to game the company's accounting. – David Schwartz Aug 24 '17 at 15:20
• I highly doubt technicians are sitting around the office playing videogames until the start of the next month. They are doing SOMETHING, and management has decided their priorities. It's management's prerogative. If management said "Don't sell product A", but you see it in the system as still having inventory, it's not lying to say you can't sell a customer that product. – kbelder Aug 24 '17 at 15:45
• If the client has a contract that promises technician and the company is maliciously trying to postpone that, it's not even "thinking about your clients first", it's basically being fair and decent and refusing to join the crime with the gang. – Džuris Aug 24 '17 at 19:33
• @EikePierstorff "cleary technicans are available, else she/he would not have been able to schedule appointments": consider that maybe they are all off for 2 weeks of training, but the software simply does not have the ability to easily block out all their schedules (without, for example, making dozens of fake appointments) – simpleuser Aug 25 '17 at 15:33

As other answers have stated, it seems that there may be more than meets the eye as to why the technicians are shown as available in the software while your manager tells you not to book any before the end of the month. Rather than just answer your question with a simple "yes" or "no" as to whether you're lying, I think it would be more productive to get to the root cause of the problem.

Speak to your manager. Ask why you shouldn't be booking before the end of the month, and suggest that, if the technicians are actually not available (perhaps they're scheduled for training, or are being sent off to a remote site to do some work, or whatever else), that they should be marked as such in your scheduling software. If your manager says that technicians are available but still should not be booked, provide your anecdote about the upset customer you spoke with -- you documented the call in your support system, right?

At the end of the day it's your manager's decision as to whether you are permitted to schedule these technicians, but perhaps there's a reason for it, and addressing it directly (but politely) with your manager is the best approach. If the technicians aren't available, ask your manager if you can inform customers of the reason. They may still be unhappy if all your technicians are unavailable due to training or some other activity, but at least they will know that no, there actually aren't any available.

• +1: If the technicians are really not available, why hasn't management removed the availability from the booking system or claimed all the bookings under a "holding" category (training or whatever)? Aside from the fact that it might make some reps feel they are being less than truthful, it's the most clear way to communicate the lack of available technicians, rather than relying on every rep getting the memo. Clear communication is everything. – Bloodgain Aug 24 '17 at 16:42

Seems like all the answers and most of the comments have made an unsupported assumption about the reason for the instruction. I take another viewpoint: either the manager that gave the instruction has an ethical reason, or they don't. Either way, you jeopardize your job by disobeying. But the consequences of obeying may be different. If the manager and the instruction are ethical, the worst that happens to you is the customer yells at you. If you obey an unethical instruction and there is any negative consequence, the unethical manager denies giving the instruction and lets you take the fall.

Example: I once chose not to take a hint to falsify a time-sheet. My next evaluation had words like "decisions not always in the best interests of the business" and soon after, I was unemployed. If I had taken the hint and the customer (government) found out, I would have been in jail instead of unemployed and the real frauds would still be in management (claiming that they NEVER suggested mischarging).

• That sounds like a good case for wrongful termination lawsuit. The jury is likely to believe the asked to falsify timesheet story even if every lawyer you ask says you have no case. – Joshua Aug 25 '17 at 21:27
• A lawyer that says I have no case is not going to take it on contingency. – WGroleau Aug 25 '17 at 22:04
• While most lawyers will not take a case that you are unlikely to win most governments have "Whistle Blowers" policies - If you report to the relevant government department what you were being asked to do and by whom they will probably investigate, (as you probably weren't the only one). If the government imposes penalties they talk to the lawyer again as you will probably have a case. – Steve Barnes Aug 26 '17 at 6:19
• That might have worked, though the manager wasn't stupid. As I said, it was a hint (and a bit vague, though I recognized the intent). Anyway, that was more than ten years ago. – WGroleau Aug 26 '17 at 9:26

My question is, am I lying to clients saying I can’t book them a technician to fix their problem sooner than next month?

No, you are following your supervisor's instructions.

Continue doing what you were told. You are most definitely riding a bit of a fine line as you will have to do at times in your career. I would look at it this way if I were you. "I am following my supervisor's instructions", and I need my job so I will follow my supervisor's instructions, and leave it at that.

Also, just because your system says you have techs available, doesn't mean you do. Do you your job to the best of your ability, following your supervisor's instructions and carry on.

• If he's getting hung up on the exact wording, then it seems pretty trivial to change the wording: instead of "no technicians are available until...", just say "I can't get you an appointment with a technician until...". In any case, he needs to follow the procedures and guidance of his company and his manager, if he intends to keep his job. – BradC Aug 24 '17 at 18:15
• That bold text sounds like some defense from the Nuremberg trials. Nobody is considered fine if he does bad things because he was told. It's not ok or legal to commit crime just because you'd lose your job otherwise. – Džuris Aug 24 '17 at 19:36
• @Džuris But this isn't committing a crime. It is relaying the information provided by management, which is that the technicians aren't available and scheduling them for the first time that they are available. It's great to think that this is a bad policy (particularly if you actually know the reasons, which we don't really in this case) or that you'd prefer to work for a company that is able to provide better customer service, and to look for a new job accordingly, but saying that unavailable technicians are unavailable isn't the same as being asked to sell dangerously unsafe food or something – Zach Lipton Aug 24 '17 at 22:35
• Even if management explicitly told this individual that they weren't to schedule technicians until next month for reasons of revenue and that went against some kind of contract that gave some specified window of availability --- comparing that to the Nuremberg trials is a huge stretch. – mkingsbu Aug 25 '17 at 17:11
• If I know it's a lie, I won't say it. Some times I've even "failed to do" things that were not evil but just stupid. For example, when they complained that I didn't take my extra-pay graveyard shift (there were no night task available), I said, "Send me back to the farm if you don't like saving money" (more than once). They didn't take me up on it. But if I didn't have a farm to go back to, I may have been a bit more diplomatic. :-) – WGroleau Aug 26 '17 at 9:36

You do not have the authority to book a technician before that. You can simply say "I can't book anyone before X date." That is true, because it is not your decision, as you found out when you tried to do it. The details of the meaning are possibly different from what the hearer assumes, but you are not deliberately deceiving them, just telling them what is in your power to do. If they press you, as that person did, you can say "it is not in my power to make a booking any earlier than that". If they want a supervisor, give them a supervisor.

• I like the approach here, but I do think that the initial example statement is still intentionally misleading because the OP has explicitly stated that the OP could book them, just should not. – ttbek Aug 28 '17 at 15:30
• @ttbek I don't think this use of "can't" is exceptional. "The police can't just arrest you because of how you look." is not strictly true--what we really mean is "can't legally". In this case, what he means is "can't [and keep my job]". "I can't turn the lights off in the whole store just because your toddler is interested in seeing what would happen, ma'am." That doesn't really mean "I can't". I agree that information the customer would find interesting is undisclosed. But that is not, by itself, against normal business ethics or even a normal customer expectation. – msouth Aug 29 '17 at 16:46

If a customer asks if there are technicians available this month, you're not lying if you say that there aren't, because that's what you've been told by your supervisor. However, you may quickly get into difficulty if an unhappy customer has follow-up questions: "Why aren't there any technicians available this month?" "What are they all doing this week?" and so on. I would suggest that you may need to refer such questions to your supervisor.

• The OP would be lying because the technicians are available. They're on the job, have no prior commitments, and could go to do the job if they were dispatched. That's what someone is asking when they ask if the technicians are available. From what we know, the OP's supervisor is preventing available technicians from being dispatched to game the company's accounting numbers and is ordering the OP to facilitate this gaming which certainly hurts the customers and most likely hurts the company as well. – David Schwartz Aug 24 '17 at 15:23
• @DavidSchwartz "the technicians are available. They're on the job, have no prior commitments, and could go to do the job if they were dispatched... the OP's supervisor is preventing available technicians from being dispatched to game the company's accounting numbers" How do you know? If the answer is "OP said so", then how do you know that OP is right? Especially since OP's post ends with "I'm totally open to the possibility that I'm looking at this completely the wrong way." – Dan Henderson Aug 24 '17 at 16:51
• @DanHenderson Whether or not the OP is right about the facts has nothing to do with whether or not he's looking at the facts the right way. I can't do anything but assume the OP is accurately reporting the circumstances absent some evidence that he's got the facts wrong, which we don't have here. As for whether he's looking at it the right way, that's precisely what my comment addressed -- I know because he gave me the facts and I can look at them too. – David Schwartz Aug 24 '17 at 17:11
• questions about why techs aren't available should be escalated every time - it's above OP's pay grade, and not his job to answer – warren Aug 24 '17 at 20:12
• I would also say it would be lying. The OP stated they are available and could be scheduled. That the OP's manager doesn't want them to be scheduled does not change the fact that they are available. Am I available to fix your computer? Yes, my afternoon is totally free. Will I fix it? Nope, good luck, have fun. Semantics are important. – ttbek Aug 28 '17 at 15:20

I fully agree with the Brichins' comment under your original question. You will not find the answer whether this is ethical on this forum, this is something that you can only find out yourself.

It is this whole business/revenue/end of year thing that makes me too think it reeks by some managers' attempt to fix the short term numbers to achieve their end period's targets and get a bonus, without any regards to potential impact on the relationship with the clients and long-term business.

This is something very typical, especially now in the time of aggressive cost savings, and tends to affect pretty much every area of business, e.g. I have seen some very nasty pressures for not paying invoices to suppliers before the quarter-end (let alone year-end!!!) to skew the numbers resulting in loss of service (impacting delivery to clients) and even suits from suppliers because T&Cs of payment were grossly breached.

Larger corporations typically try to fight this tendency by deploying trainings/e-learnings and internal whistle-blowing policies and to be honest what you describe is some of the prototypical cases of what these trainigs identify as suspicious situations. The general rule is if it feels fishy, you should raise/report it, and even if it turns out to be a non-issue, you should be protected by some non-retaliation policy (or legislation), provided you reported the problem cum bona fide (which does not mean it will not strain irreversibly your workplace relationships).

What to do... is up to you (as always:)) and depends largely on your work conditions. My general approach would be to raise this with your direct manager first in some polite and neutral way (but beware, it may also be their bonus at stake!) and perhaps they will alleviate your concerns by giving some very good and plausible reasons (like "3rd party techs are available but just run out of money, so if we order them, we won't be able to pay them, which is in my book unethical behaviour and I'd rather our company to swallow up responsibility even if it means loss of business for us") but if you still feel it is fishy, you can try escalating somewhere further in the business (if you are a large company, you may have a white line to report this kind of stuff anonymously) because somebody higher up might no be of the opinion that mid-level manager's bonus is worth a lost client. Also it may be just a bad business decision (somebody taking directives from Finance over-zealously without assessing the business impact), you never know.

Bad news is that either way, it can cost you your job:

If you raise it and delve into some shady corporate stuff, your manager may try to get rid of you (which again may be technically a wrongful dismissal but not sure if you want to continue the dispute at a court...) - this depends mostly on your workplace culture.

If you do not raise this, your company may lose clients and business and you may find yourself out of a job because of redundancy.

For purposes of this answer, I'm assuming that you've provided correct and complete information and that there are no significant factors that you're not aware of. That is, that the technicians are in fact available -- they're working, have no other commitments, and could do the job if they were scheduled. And that your understanding of the rationale for not booking the technicians is correct -- the supervisor is trying to game the accounting so that revenue is booked in a later quarter.

Yes, you are being asked to lie. When a customer asks you if a technician is available, they are asking whether the technician is working, not assigned to do anything else, and could do the job if assigned it. They're not asking about whether they can help your supervisor game your company's accounting. In the sense the customer is asking, they are available. You are being asked to tell the customers they aren't even though they are.

The test of whether you're being asked to lie is simple -- would telling the whole truth accomplish the same thing as saying what you're asking to say? And here, it's clearly not.

Now, the next question is how big of a deal this is. And to know that, you have to know what the supervisor is trying to accomplish. On the less awful side, they may just be trying to reduce the company's tax obligations by realizing income in a later quarter.

On the more awful side, they may be trying to shift income to a quarter in which they are eligible for bonuses and away from one where they're not. This hurts the company because it means they'll have fewer technicians available next month and will likely produce less total revenue and they'll pay out undeserved bonuses. Also, this puts stress on employees like you, which hurts the company.

But the most important thing is this: People are entitled to get satisfaction from their work and know that they are doing right by the people they interact with. It sounds like your supervisor doesn't think you deserve this because you have not been given sufficient information to know that you are doing this or, worse, are being asked to harm your customers and company so someone's numbers can be inflated.

What you should do about it depends a lot on how much you care about things like this and what other options you have.

• You and I seem to have different ideas of what the word "available" entails. My understanding is that "available" means "will be provided if asked for". If a technician is not busy, but the company is unwilling to provide them for some reason, then the technician is not available. If someone told me that "yes, a technician is available, but I can't book them for you", I would be confused. – Tanner Swett Aug 24 '17 at 16:19
• @TannerSwett First, we have no evidence to suggest that the company is unwilling to provide them. All we know is that his supervisor is unwilling to allow him to book them, likely to game the company's accounting. Second, consider what the customer really wants to know rather than focusing on the exact words they used. They aren't interested in knowing about the supervisor's attempted accounting games, they want to know if there is a technician who is capable of servicing them and has no conflicting commitment. – David Schwartz Aug 24 '17 at 16:31
• @TannerSwett Try this simple test -- what would happen if he told them the full truth -- "My supervisor is not allowing me to book them so revenue can be realized in a later quarter, but so far as I know nothing else is preventing me from booking them for you." It's almost certain the customer would insist that the technician be booked which means they would consider the technician available under those circumstances. – David Schwartz Aug 24 '17 at 16:33
• You seem to be making an awfully big leap in concluding that "something to do with business/revenue/end of year stuff that I’m not really privy to" means "the supervisor is trying to game the accounting so that revenue is booked in a later quarter". In fact, the OP's statement that there is "stuff that I’m not really privy to" is a pretty clear denial of your assumption "that there are no significant factors that you're not aware of". – Dan Henderson Aug 24 '17 at 16:59
• @Mr.Mindor But in any event, what's your point? That he should feel good about telling people something he has good reason to believe is a lie because he's not absolutely positive it's not true? Or that he doesn't deserve to feel good about his work? Or what? He's obviously uncomfortable with what he's being asked to do and has good reason to believe that it's dishonest. I'm not saying he shouldn't do it, but I think it's extremely important to validate his discomfort because he is right to be uncomfortable. – David Schwartz Aug 25 '17 at 1:46

You have been told that the technicians are not to be booked, so from the perspective of what you are authorised to do, it is completely true that they are not available.

That said, the clients would probably be extremely annoyed if they found out the reason why they are unavailable. By changing your position from "I have no technician available" to "I have someone available if you insist" you have revealed to the client that technicians are being witheld for reasons other than simple physical availability. Your immediate change of position shows the client that you were not telling them the complete story regarding the availability, which may lead them to have a poor view of the company, and the experience may lead them to be more pushy with you and your colleagues next time they call. These are the reasons, besides disobeying an instruction, that your boss is annoyed with you.

Some clients may be more inconvenienced by a technical issue than others, and some clients may be more important to the business than others. If you feel that a particular client who spends a lot of money will be particularly inconvenienced by the lack of a technician, you can tell them "I can take your details call you back if a technician becomes available" then put the phone down and discuss the situation with the manager. If the manager agrees, you can then call the client back and tell them you have managed to find someone. There are two advantages to this approach. 1) You have followed your boss's orders 2) Instead of looking like you were trying to hide availability from the client, you now look like you have made a special effort to find availability for them.

An example from my own experience: Not long ago I had one of our technicians on a client site who required a particular spare to perform a breakdown service (free of charge under warranty.) Our spares department found a supplier who had one for $5000 immediately, and another who had one for$1500 on a one month lead time. The spares guy and I decided the best thing to do was not to tell the client about the $5000 option until he had finished checking other suppliers. The client phoned me to check on progress, and I told him "the best we have at the moment is one month, we are checking with other suppliers." The client then wrote me an email about how he needed to get his production line running again. We discussed this with management, and we made a business decision: it was worth taking the$5000-$1500=$3500 hit in order to maintain goodwill with the client. The \$5000 spare was sent to them overnight and installed a day later.

• Congratulations, you sir are a liar. Just because you think it was the right thing to do in your example does not make it any less a lie. It's good that in the end your client got what he needed, but he easily may not have. Suppose he read this post now, would he still be keen to do business with you? I wouldn't be. "These are the reasons, besides disobeying an instruction, that your boss is annoyed with you." Probably, but sometimes personal morals need to trump your boss and your job security for your long term peace of mind. – ttbek Aug 28 '17 at 15:01

Yes - If you know they are available but you tell the customer they aren't, you are lying. You have to decide if you can live with that. The why doesn't matter and doesn't determine whether you are lying.

There may be times when as an adult (or even a child) you have to lie to protect something (your job) or someone (your mother's terrible cooking).

You can maybe make it easier on everyone involved by saying, "There are no available slots until next month." But it is a lie. If you are willing to lie for your employer is completely your decision, but sometimes decisions have consequences, physically (loss of income) and spiritually (loss of self).

You can try to say "My boss made me lie, but you are ultimately the one delivering the lie

• Too much "save your job", "do what you are told to do" answers and a lack of sense. This sades me because of course this can be a harmless lie for a genuine reason as is can be a harmfull lie moved by greedy (what if it's a cancer trateament radiation therapy machine and middle management just don't want to go over the thecnicians air trip budget for this quarter to get his bonus?) – jean Aug 28 '17 at 12:12
• I'm amazed at the hoops many other answers go through to attempt to say it isn't lying. It is definitely lying. The OP's management has put them in a difficult situation, but a lie is a lie. Maybe many in this thread have been in such situations and this is the cognitive dissonance setting in, they don't want to think of themselves as liars. Personally, if I weren't instructed specifically not to, I would pass the buck up to the boss, of course most call centers are designed as a buffer so that management can stay in their bubble impervious to irate clients, so it probably won't go over well. – ttbek Aug 28 '17 at 13:42

You are looking at it the wrong way. It should be understood that "no technicians are available" does not mean, "no technicians could be made available" -- there are undoubtedly things that could be done (both fair and foul) that would open up a technicians time.

Take a similar situation, Amazon and a book that has a publish or release date. If you call up and say that you want a book today that is scheduled for release tomorrow, and say you don't believe they can't sale you the book today, you are both right and wrong. If you were to kidnap their family and hold them hostage, they could undoubtedly find a way to get you the book today. If you pre-paid a billion dollars, you could undoubtedly get the book today. But in the normal course of business the book will be available tomorrow...

Likewise with your technicians -- you have no technicians available to book for a week, because you have been told not to do so. The fact that a piece of software says they are available, doesn't mean they are available to you.

You aren't lying. On a separate note, the client probably wasn't accusing you of lying, she was probably asking for help -- asking what she could do to get a technician sooner.

• +1 For the record, computers rarely tell the whole story. – employee-X Aug 28 '17 at 1:29
• My reading is that the OP was not merely saying that the system shows them as available, but that they in all actuality really are available and they are not being scheduled for other reasons, which would make it a lie. In your Amazon example the phone rep probably actually can't. It is likely disabled to them in the system. To do that you would need to ask a warehouse worker to steal it basically. – ttbek Aug 28 '17 at 15:09
• @ttbek: Not steal, just do the paperwork a bit later. Amazon, the publisher, and the author would all get their appropriate share eventually. And ven if it was theft,it'd be petty theft and there's not really all that much difference in the consequences of disobeying a direct order and getting caught doing some petty theft at work. You're probably going to get fired either way. – jmoreno Aug 28 '17 at 23:33

Yes, this is definitely lying. Whether or not management is asking you to lie is less clear. My understanding is that they said not to book them, which doesn't strictly mean to lie about it.... and I'm sure if anyone is investigating later their story will be that you were not asked to lie. Then what you can tell customers is that you will not book them a technician sooner or that you are not authorized to book them a technician until next month. At least my reading of the OP's statements is that:

1. Technicians are available
2. They actually can be booked in the system
3. OP has been told not to do so

To say that they are not available is a lie. To say that you cannot is also a lie.

Answers that try to twist lack of availability into some sort of 'in effect' truth are, in my opinion trying to justify their own thought process to avoid the cognitive dissonance of considering themselves liars.

To say that you have been instructed not to is the most true. It passes the buck to management, which is where it really should go, but they will likely not appreciate it as the probably consider customer service their shield of convenience in these matters. So that may be undesirable for the OP's career.

A statement that you/the company will not book a technician sooner is truthful but may be questioned. If they do so then you may need to make the call of stonewalling or passing the buck if you want to avoid lying.

Customer: "I don't believe there isn't a technician available for a whole week"
Call Center: "I'm sorry sir, but the soonest we will book a technician for you is the start of next month."
or
Call Center: "I'm sorry sir, but the soonest I'm authorized to book a technician for you is the start of next month."

You could do it... you're just not supposed to. Some others might say these are silly semantics and they risk more customer anger. I'm of the opinion that semantics are important (the real reason to distinguish between 'can I' and 'may I') and that a customer irritated by this is less of a risk than customers' fury if they find that they're being lied to, and I think that from the customers' point of view it is lying.

I say that to say you cannot would definitely be a lie, the twists and turns in other answers might let you consider it one of a variety of kinds of lies that may have less guilt, e.g. a half truth, a white lie, or misleading.... but a rose by any other name.... etc.. it's still a lie.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lie

• If I'm a cashier, a customer asks me to give them a bunch of free merchandise, and I say I can't do that, am I lying? I mean, I physically can do it; I'm simply not authorized to do so. – Zach Lipton Aug 29 '17 at 3:58
• "To say that they are not available is a lie. To say that you cannot is also a lie." Agree with the first sentence, but not with the second. In modern English usage, the word can't is used informally to indicate prohibition as well as a lack of capability. (See definition #2 at en.wiktionary.org/wiki/can't ) Even if we adopt the position that the usage of the word "can't" to indicate a lack of permission is an incorrect usage, that still doesn't make misuse of a word equivalent to lying. – Dan Henderson Aug 29 '17 at 17:09

Try this absolutely honest answer:

"I don't know the exact reasons, but I'm not able to book a technician before [date]. I'm really sorry about that. Would you like me to book you the first appointment I have after that?"

Short simple and honest.

• That opens the door to making customers angrier. Bad move. Just stick with, "the earliest date I can schedule a technician is [next month sometime]" – warren Aug 24 '17 at 20:13
• It would be fine with me if a customer gets angry. It would be a wonderful excu^H^H^H^Hopportunity for "Would you like to speak with my supervisor?" – WGroleau Aug 24 '17 at 20:29
• Telling a customer that you don't know something will make them suspicious. Don't do it. – Tomáš Zato Aug 24 '17 at 20:44
• That's not an exact answer. He is able, he's not allowed. – einpoklum Aug 25 '17 at 16:03
• Do I care about their suspicions? If I tell the truth and they choose not to believe it, that's their loss.. – WGroleau Aug 26 '17 at 9:38