Co-Worker Conundrum: ‘How Do You Handle A Boss That Lies?’

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What do you do when you know that your superior lies? My boss asked us to fudge our numbers to make her look better. She tells different stories to different employees, and she hasn’t figured out yet that we talk to each other and know she isn’t being honest. It makes our whole office uncomfortable. We can’t confront her because we’re afraid we’ll get fired or forced out. Is there anything we can do?

In every professional’s life, there comes a time when they have to work with a manager who really doesn’t belong in a leadership role. Like, not eve a little bit. Normally, I like to managers the benefit of the doubt, because I realize that it’s a difficult and misunderstood position that often necessitates walking a very fine line between two disparate groups of people who have two very different sets of goals. Upper management or shareholders want the most productivity for the least about of payroll. Employees want the most benefits and payroll for the least amount of work. I know it’s difficult to bring these two groups together and make it all work.

That being said, there’s no excuse for dishonesty. And it sounds like this manager is more interested in making themselves look good without actually doing any work.

With a manager who needs to lie to make themselves look better and who seems to be telling everyone what she thinks they want to hear, my diagnosis is that you’re working for the dreaded “Insecure Leader.” It sounds like an oxymoron, really, but there are plenty of them. This manager is afraid of failing and they are afraid of making people angry, which is almost amusing because theit actions tend to guarantee that result.

I’m sorry to say that I don’t have a sure-fire way to confront a dishonest, insecure manager. But I do have a few tips that might help you and your co-workers out. The good news is that people in the position normally can’t last too long. They’ll lie to the wrong person or shoot themselves in the foot. You just don’t want to go down with them. So here are my tips:

  • Document everything. You’re going to need proof, first and foremost. Try to make your boss give you instructions via email so that you have a record of exactly what they asked you to do. If she gives you directions in person that seem sketchy, send a follow up email saying, “I just wanted to make sure that you wanted me to do x,” or asking for clarification on something. You’re going to want back-up when dealing with dishonesty.
  • Support each other. It sounds like you and your co-workers are discussing matters together, and that’s a good place to start. It will be a lot easier if you all refuse to fudge your numbers than if a single person takes a stand. Your boss won’t be able to force you all out without raising suspicion from upper management.
  • Own up to your own mistakes. A culture of accountability has to start somewhere. If you and your co-workers own up to your mistakes and work to correct them, you  might just prove to your boss that perfection isn’t necessary. Also, if someone further up realizes that your boss is faking numbers, it will help prove that not everyone was trying to cover up.
  • Report your problems. Every company should have a confidential way to report issues. But you want to focus only on facts and only things that you can prove. If you turn it into a character assassination, your boss could argue that you were just out to get her. Focus on the lying and data, because that can be proven. And if everyone is in agreement, upper management has a duty to step in.
  • Don’t shut them out completely. Until the situation is rectified (or your boss is removed), don’t shut them out completely. While it seems like the natural thing to do to protect yourself, an insecure leader left to their own devices is dangerous. You don’t want them feeling isolated or antagonized. Do your best to be polite and accommodating without breaking your own code of ethics.

If you have co-worker problems that you would like help with, contact me at LindsayCross at gmail dot com.

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