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What can I do about a co-worker who is amazing at her job but is also a habitual liar?

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Question: "A co-worker in a position of great responsibility has a very bad habit of lying. She is amazing at her job, represents the organization well and her staff likes working for her— except for the fact that they often don’t know when she is or isn’t telling the truth.  She even lies when telling the truth would serve her much better.  One concern is that she will occasionally stretch the truth with statistics, and if she’s caught doing that, it could harm the credibility of the organization.  Other than that, she is a wonderful employee and co-worker, and no one wants to see her fired.  People who have confronted her in the past have sacrificed their relationships with her.  Has anyone experienced a similar situation?  Any advice for an optimal outcome?" —Oklahoma

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer November 7, 2011 at 8:21 am

I have been in a situation just like this. It was because of my record keeping that I was able to prevent her from dragging me down her dark road. Sooner or later the truth does come out and they just end up hanging themselves.

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Gloria November 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm

This is not a credible person. It sounds like the reason those who end up sacrificing their relationship is because this person does not want to be exposed. She is distancing herself from them to maintain that image of being a “good-guy”. The other co-workers “think” they know this person; but, in reality, its a perception she created to them. Where there are some lies, others and deeper ones exist. Where are the bigger issues that lie below the surface once its scratched that no one can see? There are more serious things going on at the company that no one knows about yet. They will end up catching up with her. Be very careful who you align yourself with. Image can only take you so far. Leaders are based on being credible. This one can’t be trusted.

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Sandi November 1, 2011 at 12:38 pm

There is no solution for this situation. She sounds like a pathological liar, not a “habitual” liar. That goes much deeper. How can she be considered a wonderful person and employee? That goes to character. If you are a liar, you are not a wonderful person. You are a liar! Who can trust this person? Do her co workers actually think she has their back? Why would you want this person working for your company? Liars don’t stop at that. They have no ethics. She’s got you all bamboozled.

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Been there October 31, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Hmmm. I have worked with a habitual liar before. I was dumbfounded how he would, as you say, lie even when the truth would serve him better!

I’d want to try to help her by gently pointing out (NOT “confronting”) every lie I hear/see in print. i.e., I overheard a salesperson lying about an expected delivery date. When I pointed that out to him: “Oh I know, I just told the client that because they were demanding it this week…when we can’t deliver it by Friday, I’ll tell them something unexpectedly came up” Me: “But customers don’t like that…You know what they say you’re supposed to do: , ‘Over promise, under deliver’ … oh wait I have that backwards it’s: “Under promise, over deliver!”
My point being, I wouldn’t paint her as a compulsive liar (even if she is) but I would keep pointing out what she might be “mistaken” about and act to correct it, even offer to clear up some “misunderstandings” if she won’t. We all make mistakes so you can correct her without accusing her of lying. And I think you’ll feel better if you do, because dishonesty is a huge slippery slope. It doesn’t take long before knowing about someone else’s lie without correcting it can make you guilty too. So many people looked the other way all along the predatory loan approval chain (agreed to “No doc” loans, etc, etc. because ‘every one’ was doing it) and we ended up with financial meltdown! (I think you should listen to your conscience…best advice is still “never do anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of NY Times.”) You’re in a position to help her…I think you should.

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Sharon October 28, 2011 at 9:08 pm

I have a similar problem but with my boss and management after I filed a sexual harassment complaint, gender discrimination and retaliation grievance.

People who regularly tell partial truths to paint the picture they hope others will believe are dangerous to your job, reputation, and they do not care whether they are hurting you or the company because they are narcissistic and will do and say whatever they believe is clever enough to give them what they want. When someone is more interested in me, myself and I they cannot be trusted. Since they cannot be trusted, they are not an asset because they
Cannot be trusted.

Even worse, they will assume you are just like them and will view as suspect and as someone who is a threat to them.

Watch your back. Keep good records. Pray they either tell the truth or fall into their own traps.

If you expose them, their self admitted cleverness is the price you will pay. Be strong and do the right thing for the right reasons but also beware because you may become their target.

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Braimoh A. October 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Engage her in one-on-one discussions and point it out to her. Let her know the effects of her being a lier on the reputation of the organization. If after three repeated causion she refuse to change and that in essence will have negative impact on the organization, you separate her from the organization. The organization comes first.

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Michelle October 28, 2011 at 11:40 am

Unfortunately, if she is a habitual liar, in my opinion, there is very little one can do. It has to have been something she has been doing for years. It is too bad that she is a capable worker but a person who lies is not a good employee. These people risk a great deal of a company’s integrity if they should happen to “stretch” the truth about anything and it gets back that this information was fabricated.

I would definitely have a supervisor speak to her about maybe some supportive counseling if she is that valuable of an employee but as far as I am concerned, she is NOT a valued employee when it comes to company information. A liar cannot be trusted. Every bit of information would need to be verified for accuracy. I would tread very carefully with the information this employee has access to.

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Michelle October 28, 2011 at 11:36 am

First of all if she is stretching the truth with statistics in regard to some company report then I’m sorry to say she does not represent the company well at all. As you said if caught it could harm the company. Representing the company well means adhering to the morals and values of the company. And then for those who know she is stretching the statistics, it is ethically wrong to know and not report it. Yes, nobody likes to be a tattletale but for others to know and not say anything they are just as wrong as she is a habitual liar. Two wrongs make nothing right about this situation. Say for instance she was caught and you were asked “did you know this was happening, what are you going to say?” And if yes, then how do you explain yourself?

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