Dealing With Employee "Lies"
In a perfect world, everyone would tell the truth. But at some point you will be confronted with an employee who lies. It may not be as scandalous as Floyd Landis’ protestations of innocence, but it’s important to have a plan about how you will deal with the untruths that pass through your office.
A study of more than 2,500 workers by CareerBuilder.com showed that about 13% of American workers show up late for work at least once a week, and about 25% are late at least once a month. Of those numbers, one in five people said that they make up lies to tell their boss.
The range of potential lies varies from failure to follow policies or rules, to excessive tardiness, to theft. Separate lies from fibs. That is, some lies aren’t worth a second thought. I’m talking about good performers who occasionally stretch the truth to save face and protect their relationship with you. Their claims of ‘traffic was heavier than I expected this morning’ should be dismissed if it happens only once in a while.
To the employee who always offers excuses, consider the following:
Only in a true emergency should you act without thorough planning. It may take time and resources, but it’s important that you gather the facts and determine what action is necessary before talking to the employee. If the offense is serious, get guidance from a legal perspective.
Think through what you want to say to the employee and in what sequence. Practice by role playing. Anticipate the likely reactions and responses. Know your own communication style, how you are perceived, and how you will react in the event of a challenge or emotional outburst. Knowing what you intend to cover in a face-to-face meeting and sticking to the agenda is much easier if you have planned in advance.
Identify the problem as you understand it. Be brief but specific. Then offer the employee an opportunity to present their side. There may be a factor you didn't know about that will help the two of you to solve a problem jointly. Refusing to listen just builds resentment and makes improvement difficult. Be fair to the employee. Consider his or her side of the story and any evidence submitted. Never criticize the individual, but rather focus on the actual behavior. Avoid using the word ‘liar’ as it will enflame the situation. Advise the employee of the consequences of his/her actions. It may be a suspension, or even a termination.
There often is a misunderstanding about what and when to document. All disciplinary infractions should be recorded in some form. For minor, first-time offenses, write a note to remind yourself. The employee need not know about this, and it does not require formal entry into a personnel file. If the problem reoccurs or if it is a serious offense, be sure to formalize the process by having the employee sign the document.
Lies are difficult to deal with. You are going to feel drained. Give yourself credit for having the courage to tackle a difficult situation. And remember, if you want to minimize your staff lying to you, never lie to them and always deal with lies when they happen.
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