When you catch someone in a lie

When a co-worker or even your boss tells a fib, and you find out, it’s natural to feel hurt or angry—but that doesn’t mean you should react. Take these steps instead:

Try to understand liars’ motivation. Perhaps a co-worker didn’t want to hurt your feelings, or your boss can’t yet disclose information to you, so they told a white lie. If they’re somehow trying to protect you, even in a misguided way, cut them some slack.  

Evaluate the benefits—and costs—of addressing the lie. If you confront liars or go above their heads to a supervisor or HR, you must deal with the fallout. You could irreparably damage the relationship, or even gain a reputation as a snitch. Think hard: What do you gain if you call the person out?

Call in the troops if the law is being broken. You should never confront someone directly who is breaking the law or behaving unethically. Involve HR or your company’s legal counsel immediately.

Address the issue—but don’t accuse. There is always the chance that you are wrong or that you misinterpreted something. Instead, say something like, “I might be seeing this the wrong way …” or “I realize I may not know all the details …” Then ask for their explanation.

Ads_Tough Talks D

Move on. The fact that you pointed out the lie, hopefully, will curb the issue going forward. While it may be hard to trust the person, put the incident behind you. In some cases, it’s best to just forgive and forget, unless the behavior becomes the norm, is unethical or hurts your career. Then you will need to take the issue to the person’s boss or HR.

—Adapted from “What to Do If You Catch Your Boss in a Lie,” Pamela Meyer, www.linkedin.com.