How to Deal with Workplace Lying

Workplace dishonesty can damage your company. Here’s how to tell if your employees are lying and what you should do about it.

Posted by Timothy Dimoff in on January 10th, 2018

Lying seems to be a part of our daily lives and it is certainly a very real part of our work lives. Studies have shown that, depending on the circumstances, everyone lies. Sometimes the lies are meant to deceive and sometimes they actually are intended to not hurt someone.

Lies in the Workplace

Think about someone saying a project outcome is better than it really is, or a little white lie in order to be kind. It is possible to hear as many as 200 lies per day and 60 per cent of people lie at least once in a 10-minute conversation with a stranger.

Lying seems to be more frequent in phone calls than face to face. The biggest concern to a business is that 81 per cent of applicants lie during interviews.

Repercussions of Workplace Lying

While most lies are small and probably not a concern, there is an important issue with lying in the workplace. Lying in the workplace can have seriously negative repercussions, affecting the bottom line as well as other areas.

HR professionals and investigators should be skilled and trained to detect lies.

Red Flags for Lies

Whether interviewing an employee for employment or in the course of an investigation, the truth should come out as verbal or written statements that are detailed without being too long or too short.

Watch out for statements that redirect blame or are meant to distract.

Make sure you and your managers know the warning signs (red flags) of lying that can include:
• Answering a question with a question.
• Answering a yes or no question with a long answer instead of just a “yes” or “no” response.
• Redirecting the blame to others.
• Being too defensive or even angry.
• Acting bored or uninterested in the meeting and the questions.
• Knowing too much about the incident.
• Using double negatives.
• Minimizing or denying the incident
• Becoming defensive.
• Using body language or statements that are restrictive such as “I wish I could tell you more”, shrugging, etc.
• Confusing answers or timelines.
• Asking for chances to charge or recant their answers.

What to Do When Someone Lies

There are effective methods for dealing with a liar at work. Knowing these methods and how to use them is very important.

In order to protect your company specific steps should be taken that include:
• Instituting strong internal processes including an employee manual that has a policy clearly stating punishments for lying.
• Watching for warning signs
• Training yourself and others to recognize traits of lying and deception and to figure out how severe the lying is.
• Creating an honest culture from the top down.
• Confronting the person privately and if possible ask for permission to record the meeting.
• Don’t push employees, but document all incidents of lying, poor productivity, complaints, meetings and conversations.
• Acknowledging that customers also lie.
• Understanding that lying can affect your health and the health of others.

Remember that there is a tangible danger to workplace lying that can affect your bottom line. Protect your business and put a stop to what may seem to be harmless lying, but actually isn’t.


Timothy Dimoff
Timothy Dimoff

President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services

Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues.
He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University.

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