Boss wants you to falsify information: Should you?

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in Your Office Coach

Question:  “Our appraisal system requires supervisors to schedule quarterly conferences with their employees, but my boss never does. On my annual performance review, he always lists the dates when our conferences should have happened, then asks me to sign it. I have never been comfortable falsifying this information, but I don't know what to do. Should I just suck it up and sign to keep my boss out of trouble? Or should I refuse and risk becoming the target of retaliation?” — Honest Employee

Marie’s Answer:  Any supervisor who asks an employee to lie should be horsewhipped. But since ratting out your boss could backfire and damage your own career, here are some alternative ideas:

•    The choice of lying or refusing puts you between the proverbial rock and hard place.  However, a third option is to schedule the quarterly conferences yourself. Put the dates on your supervisor’s calendar, then send him a reminder shortly before each meeting.

•    Since your boss is unlikely to prepare for these discussions, create your own agenda. Review accomplishments and challenges for the quarter, and then ask for his reaction. You can also discuss other current issues.

•    When the supervisor is a poor performance manager, employees often have to work hard to get feedback. But the effort is usually worth it, because otherwise there may be unpleasant surprises at review time.

At best, the conferences that you initiate might actually turn into productive meetings.  But if not, at least you no longer will be certifying false information. 

For more Office Coach suggestions on getting feedback from your boss, see How (and why) to Ask for Criticism.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Teresa July 22, 2009 at 5:09 pm

The answer to the original question “should you falsify information because your boss wants you to” is NO. Never sell yourself out, if your boss wants to falsify something let HIM do it, that way it never comes back (and it will) to bite YOU. However this senario seems very minor to me, and you’re not really falsifying anything, you’re signing that you met with your boss and you did. However I’d read what you’re signing to be sure it doesn’t mention information you were supposed to discuss and didn’t, if it does don’t sign.

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Sharon Wolinski July 22, 2009 at 4:14 pm

I was in a situation where my boss gave me false information to put in the weekly report to our home office. I refused to put the false info in and called the VP of the department, explained the situation to him and asked for his advise. He told me not to put false info in and to let my boss know that if my boss had a problem with that he should call the VP. It solved the problem. I never was asked to something unethical again.

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Lisa July 22, 2009 at 3:52 pm

I might have signed it once if/when I was a new employee, but I would then let them know I don’t feel comfortable signing something that is false and question why the dates are listed if they are not important. And, then suffer through the awkward silence until they answer. It could turn out the supervisor thinks I don’t want to meet in error.

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