How to Deal with Lying Colleagues

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Of the problematic social behaviors you might encounter among colleagues, lying is one of the most difficult to deal with. When someone is intentionally spreading misinformation about situations or people, you need to figure out how to correct the lies without injuring your own reputation by directly accusing someone of lying. Use subtle techniques and good intentions to counteract the liar's tactics, correct the lies and protect yourself.

Correct Without Accusation

When you hear people talking about lies, correct them without putting the liar on the spot. Be relaxed and confident in how you speak and say that you believe the liar was “misinformed,” and then state the truth of the situation and back it up with evidence or facts that support your position. Speculate innocently about how and why the liar could have come to the wrong “conclusions” about the situation or how she might have simply misspoken by “accident.” Let your colleagues or supervisors come to their own conclusions about the liar's intentional dishonesty. With luck, the liar will stop once it's clear that lying as a tactic isn't working.

Gain Allies

If you are the target of lies, strengthen your bonds with colleagues and supervisors who may act as your allies. Make and nurture those bonds positively through socializing, being helpful and working hard rather than through negative means like gossiping about or actively uniting against the liar. Instead, passively and subtly exclude the liar from your efforts and trust that his dishonest behavior will alienate others as well.

Make Pre-Emptive Strikes

If you think you can guess what sort of lies your colleague is likely to tell next or what situations she may lie about, pre-empt her efforts by making clear statements about what's true to as many people as you can. Put statements in writing or emails when you can. Force her to contradict you after the fact to put the focus on her.

Call the Liar Out

Once you've secured a base of support, speak to a supervisor if the lies persist. Tell the supervisor that you've observed your coworker lying on numerous occasions and that you'd hoped you were wrong and were watching the liar to make sure you weren't mistaken. Make it clear that you trust your supervisor to deal with this situation and that you consider the matter closed.