How to Handle Liars in the Workplace

by Laurie Reeves, Demand Media
    Dishonesty can lead to other vices.

    Dishonesty can lead to other vices.

    The last place you expect to find a liar is at work. When you come across one, it might shake you up a bit, because you're probably not used to dealing with people who lie. Some people lie as a matter of course. Others lie because they think they'll get in trouble if they tell the truth, especially if they made a mistake. To make your work life easier, deal with the lie immediately. If you wait too long, the details of the lie become foggy and immediacy is lost. The best way to deal with a liar is head on, or you might be caught in the tangled web she weaves.

    Step 1

    Take the time to ensure that the person in question lied before confronting her. Ask to speak with her privately once you're sure of the facts. When you are both behind closed doors, put her at ease with random talk and watch how she behaves. Use the conversation to develop a baseline for her body language and responses when you know she isn't being deceptive. At the right moment, bring up the reason you wanted to speak with her. Start the conversation with, "The reason I asked to speak with you privately, was because yesterday when I spoke to you about such and such, I got the distinct impression that you weren't being honest with me. In fact, I believe you were lying."

    Step 2

    Explain the part of the conversation that you suspect was dishonest and watch her reaction. When people lie or get caught out in a lie, their body language changes. They might shift their gaze around the room or become nervous, though pathological liars will look you directly in the eye. Look for other body language signals such as increased eye blinking, overly long response times, a fake smile, a higher pitch to her voice, face touching, anxiety and a disagreement between the words she uses and her body language. Also note if she accepts responsibility for not telling the truth. Deceptive people try to find a way to shift the blame elsewhere.

    Step 3

    Calmly let her know that you don't appreciate lying. State the truth of the situation as you know it. Remain centered and stick to the facts. Don't allow her to engage you in an argument about her lying. People who continually lie are typically bullies or like to control others. Remember that a lie is a means to control another person, abuse power or avoid responsibility. If she admits to the lie and apologizes, thank her for admitting it to you and be willing to give her another chance. If she denies it, there's really nothing more than you can do. You've confronted her with the situation and given her the chance to step up to the plate.

    Step 4

    Adhere to your morals and keep your integrity in place. Be completely honest with her; let her know that you do not appreciate her behavior. If she lied because she was afraid of the consequences, be willing to forgive her. If she is a deceptive person by nature, only interact with her in public in the future.

    Step 5

    Document the conversation, especially if you know she lied and is denying it. Clearly state the facts in a journal or document and keep it where she does not have access. You don't want her going behind your back and presenting her side of the story to your supervisor or a higher authority. Include the date and time of the conversation and reiterate everything that took place in the document.

    Step 6

    Consider bumping the situation up to a higher authority if the lying is work-related. Lies that affect productivity or put the company in a bad light need to be dealt with by her immediate supervisor or the human resources department. If she lies about social or private matters, avoid having any kind of private conversation or social relationship with her in the future. If you must speak with her because of work, only talk to her in the presence of people whom you trust. Chances are that if she lies to you, she also deceives other people in the office, and though they might not be as direct as you are, they're probably aware of her problem.

    Tip

    • Some people find it easier to lie than to tell the truth, though it actually takes more energy to lie. The reason is that the liar has to first disassociate herself from the truth to be able to concoct a believable story. People who lie because of the imagined consequences of a mistake that they made might not be pathological liars; they may have been punished for telling the truth as children, and are simply afraid of authority for the same reasons.

    Warning

    • Avoid being caught up in the emotionalism of a person who is a consistent liar. Keep your distance as much as possible and document continued instances of lying. Liars eventually get caught in their lies. If it is serious enough, she can be fired for it. Don't attack the person, as that solves nothing; focus on the problem when communicating the issue to your supervisor, if you opt for that route.

    About the Author

    A former journalist and newspaper managing editor, Laurie Reeves has decades of experience in accounting, marketing, museum management and small business administration. Handy with all kinds of tools, Reeves designed and helped her husband build their dream home. On a creative note, she sews, crochets, draws, paints, enjoys crafting, making homemade beer and working with clay. A native California and book author, she graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.

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