How Can You Handle a Lying Colleague?

With or without intention, when a colleague – be it a peer, subordinate or worst case, a superior – is lying to you, it really sucks big time and any future collaboration with that person becomes questionable.

I am not referring to those who waste your time and should be punished by a special law or something. I mean those who, by nature, use lies to build their road ahead.


Photo Pixabay

So there are no objections in a court of law, start with a presumption of innocence: not everyone has something against you, not everyone lies. In real life, those who need to cheat are few and they are (relatively) innocent exceptions. Along come those who lie when there are no stakes, just to temper a little their (missing) qualities or simply bend the truth a bit. Like our fellow in the example below:

Where are the eggs, John? asks the wife after checking the fridge.

I gave them to our new neighbor… as a welcome gift.

All of the 24 eggs?! she asks.

Of course… take a look at his window…   

Any resemblance to an actual dialogue at work is simply coincidental. Nonetheless, when a colleague affirms something that turns out to be untrue, trusting that person kind of flew off the window.

Lying does not automatically mean that the conduct of the person is arguable: “Your boyfriend is so handsome!” is an innocent lie when the person in question is uglier than law allows, but should start a silent alarm in one’s mind.

There is also the lie created to protect you from something or the lying by omission – meaning if the case holds (in your head) you can pull something like this.

At work, the most frequent ‘error’ is when a colleague states he/she has done something for a customer (while they actually didn’t).

What can you do about a lying colleague:

  • First you should emphasize the fact that you cannot accept such behavior in a team;
  • Use plenty of examples to make yourself understood on the consequences of lies;
  • Acknowledge the fact that some are professional liars and that’s how they treat those around them; it’s not personal;
  • When you catch a liar, better have some solid evidence, not expect his/her nose to grow a little;
  • Make a difference between something that may endanger the business and something less plausible. In a potential lawsuit, your chances of winning are close to zero if the damage is small or can’t be proven;
  • Wondering if that may be your fault. If you have exaggerated reactions when things go wrong, the odds of being lied to or covert, increase;
  • Make a difference between a ‘fisherman’ lie meant to entertain an audience and a cheating lie damage driven;
  • Understand the hidden reasons of the lie;
  • Last, try to have a peaceful dialogue with the person in question and not hold a confrontation.

If you think those are simply a waste of your time, draw a line and move on. You can’t build something long-lasting without trust and respect.

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Don’t forget that most of the times the need to lie resides in a wish to feel protected. By encouraging an honest work environment, supported by solid principles, the temptation to be lied to might be diminished.

Good luck being earnest!


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