How to deal with liars at work
Dealing with Liars in the Workplace
I wrote much of this as a response to a question about how to deal with liars in the workplace. I hope this is helpful and I welcome any feedback or questions.
There are different types of liars that you may encounter varying in the level of self-awareness and intentionality of their lying. Some people tend to embellish or exaggerate. Those actions, usually required by the embellishers to stroke or build their own fragile egos, can certainly be categorized as lies, but they tend to be less harmful overall than the lies of pathological or manipulative liars.
Some liars are pathological and compulsive, meaning that they seem not to be able to help themselves. They may lie out of habit, or fear, or simply because they've learned that lying has worked better for them than telling the truth.These liars may lie without even thinking about it as being a lie. In fact, they may even believe the reality that they construct.
Then there are the manipulative liars, fully aware of what they are about and being strategic about making others look bad and themselves appear better in comparison. These people will lie about the work they themselves do, and they will lie to you and about you to other people.
Once you've figured out that you are dealing with a pathological or manipulative liar, you must take steps to protect yourself and your reputation in the organization. Here are some techniques that you can use:
1) Very quickly avoid trying to resolve issues with them as you would with a person of integrity. All that does is put you in a situation of vulnerability. They will just use the information you share with them against you, and will see your efforts to resolve issues with them as an indication of weakness.
2) Calmly and directly confront the liar immediately upon the lie-whether it occurs in front of witnesses or not. Simply state the truth and then avoid the crazy arguing that the liar will try to engage you in. If that person is a liar, it's not just you in the organization that will know it, and your standing up to him or her might give someone else the courage to do so as well. A liar is a bully, and bullies need standing up to or they run amok.
3)NEVER meet alone with a liar to resolve a situation as you would a regular colleague. Doing so will set you up for further lies, including accusations on their part that you were somehow inappropriate or abusive in the meeting. Remember, they will lie, and also, since they lie, any agreement or resolution the two of you come up with will be broken by them anyway. Always try to have a witness in your dealings with a liar.
4)Document! Don't let a situation develop where it's your word against his or hers. Liars can be very smooth and practiced in presenting a distorted reality to your organizational superiors.
5)Let your integrity shine! Don't stoop to the liar’s level. Show your integrity consistently in such a way that if it ever comes down to your boss or others having to believe you or the liar it will be no contest.
Lying at work is a form of harassment and bullying. It's an activity that is often reflective of a dysfunctional organizational culture and a lack of consistent firm leadership that demands accountability to organizational values and standards. No one should have to put up with abuse and the accompanying experiences of distrust, insecurity, and anxiety at work. If you're not satisfied with leadership's response to your concerns, you may wish to consult with an employment lawyer, as well as talk with your physician about the stress you're experiencing.