It can be entirely frustrating to be in the presence of a colleague who could hold the nickname Pinocchio. You watch them feed your boss and peers lie after lie, and even worse…everyone believes them.
While it can be challenging to remain calm and cool when you witness deceit, it’s wise to remain so and plan your approach strategically. If you react too soon with little evidence and lots of emotion, you could put a negative spotlight on yourself. If you wait too long and never reach a solution, you could grow resentful and your work could suffer for it.
So what’s the middle ground?
Maintain Your Credibility
The most important thing in this situation is to maintain your dignity and credibility in the workplace. A good professional reputation is important when it comes to landing another job or asking for references in the future. Essentially, acting out of character won’t solve the situation at hand and will potentially cause more damage.
While you do your part to collect evidence in order to address the situation, be sure you’re also taking care of yourself before stepping into the office. Calming exercises like breathwork, meditation, and yoga are good options to be in a clear headspace before the day begins. If frustrations arise while you’re at work, choose to practice breathwork at your desk, go for a walk at lunch, and remove yourself from the scene as much as possible. It’s tempting to want to vent to your co-workers in an attempt to find release, but gossip will do nothing more than fuel the fire.
In this case, evidence is what you need. Begin collecting emails, voicemails, and other tangible documentation to back up your stance that your colleague is lying. For example, say you’re involved in a group project with this person. They’re insistent that they sent you their part last week, but you’ve seen nothing come through. First, scan your inbox by filtering the dates or the colleague's name. If it’s not there, then kindly ask your colleague to forward over the original timestamped email. When they’re unable to do so (and are in fact lying about the completion of their half) ask that they send that response to you in email as well.
Avoid one-on-one in-person conversations as this can become a manipulative game.
Every communication you have with this person should be done in writing or by voice memo. Avoid one-on-one in-person conversations as this can become a manipulative game. By collecting timestamped threads of data, you will eventually have a compilation of events that prove this is a consistent pattern and not a rare occasion.
Address Your Colleague
After you see this pattern happening, and have the documentation to prove it, ask for a meeting with this person. Gently ask your colleague questions to clarify these patterns. Instead of coming in and accusing them right away, be open to hearing their reasoning.
For example, maybe with the group project they needed an extension and were too embarrassed to request it. The fact is we really don’t know someone’s motive, even if it seems obvious. The goal of this meeting is to discover the motive through clarifying questions. If the lies go deeper than work-related tasks, then this could be a bit trickier to navigate. In any case, having tangible proof to fall back on and an open-minded approach will be the best way to resolve it. The outcome of this should be to walk away with a measurable solution to the situation at hand.
Meet with Your Boss
If the meeting with your colleague didn’t result in a clear solution and instead escalated the situation, immediately take matters to your boss. Your boss will want facts over feelings, so be sure to move accordingly.
Your boss will want facts over feelings, so be sure to move accordingly.
If you reached a clear solution with your colleague, be sure to uphold your end moving forward and continue to document the progress of your colleague. If things don’t seem to be getting better, then call a meeting with your boss.
Don’t Engage in Gossip
This was mentioned earlier, but it’s worth its own section. Being aware of the gossip and the lies circulating actually gives you an edge. It allows you to be more reserved and observant to begin collecting evidence and avoid spinning webs you’ll get caught in. Removing yourself from the direct line with this person leaves little evidence against you.
Even when distancing from the root of the issue, it’s equally important to drop the energy altogether. Keeping it going by complaining to your peers, or allowing others to complain to you, can still be used against you. Because the chances are if someone is gossiping behind your colleague’s back, they’re probably talking behind yours too. Be mindful of this and refuse to engage.
While there are many layers that could play into this situation, always keep your focus on being professional, poised, and disengaged. When you create space between yourself and the situation, you’ll be less stressed and therefore less apt to act out regretfully. It can certainly be frustrating to watch, which means taking care of yourself is even more important. Remember there is no fact greater than the truth and that will reveal itself in time. Don’t allow it to consume who you know yourself to be. Maintain your cool and do your part in unveiling a solution like a true leader does.
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