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How to Deal with Liars at Work

How to Deal with Liars at Work

by Frank Roche on August 22, 2007

in Culture, Policies

Ever know people who lie at work?

My son is doing a favor for some neighbors. They called our house after 8 pm on Sunday night and asked if one of our boys could babysit — all week. They wanted a babysitter for their 6th grade son from 8:30 am to 5 pm. Any of you who have teenage boys know that they don’t always get up at the crack of dawn. But Stephen, my 14-year-old, agreed to do it as a favor. No good deed goes unpunished.

Yesterday, when the parents came home, the kid told his parents — in front of my wife — that my son told him not to watch a bad TV program “because he wanted to sleep.” It was a stone cold lie. Made up whole cloth. And why? Because he was told “no” in a neighborhood filled with Self Esteem Movement Kids whose parents never tell them “no.”

Here’s what I suggested: Talk to the parents. Tell them what happened. Suggest that you don’t like your reputation being questioned. (Stephen has a 2nd Degree Black Belt, and is as disciplined and determined as anyone I’ve ever seen.) And talk to the kid. If that doesn’t work, walk away. (I once worked with the worst kind of little troll in a big consulting firm, and I should have walked away long before I offered to pay a rat a quarter to chew the warts off her face.)

How to Deal with Liars at Work
Yeah, that little story is a teeny little neighborhood drama. But what happens when you work with a dangerous liar at work? What happens if it happens to you? I say don’t let it go. Here are three things to do:

  1. Talk to the liar immediately. I was going to say “confront” the liar, but my conflict resolution friends probably wouldn’t like that phrase. But you get the point. Ask, “Why the lie?” Get underneath the issue. Find out. Fast.
  2. Clear up any confusion post-haste. Did you ever see the movie The American President with Michael Douglas? There’s a long section of the movie where the president doesn’t respond to spurious accusations against him and it nearly takes him down. Don’t do it. Truth triumphs and lies hide in dark little corners, afraid of the light. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But there’s a reason that “fight fire with fire” is an axiom. It’s because it’s true.
  3. Above all things, behave ethically. There’s a certain confidence in knowing that you wouldn’t be ashamed to tell your grandmother about what you’ve done. If you behave as an upstanding citizen, then you have much less to lose when the liars ply their trade. Good triumphs and liars have to go home and live with themselves.

That’s writing down the bones on liars in the workplace. It was five minutes of me reacting. What do you do with liars in the workplace? What’s the best strategy you’ve found?

UPDATE: I had to laugh as I was going through my Google Reader a few minutes ago. Bob Sutton posted the Latest Tips for Surviving Workplace A**holes. The Professor, as always, nails it.

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