Little Lies, Big Lies: Handling Employees who Don’t Tell the Truth

By Paul Bieber

What do you do when someone lies to you at work? You set the tone for your business, and that means you don’t lie to customers, vendors or employees. But what happens when an employee violates this code of conduct with you? You have to do something. You can’t run your business with false or misleading information. You can’t trust this person with your checkbook, with customer information or following directions with customer work. We all know how hard it is to hire good people. Honesty has to be right at the top of qualities you look for when hiring.

Different Lies

There are two types of lies that you will get, small ones and big ones. The small ones are like this: your employee hands you a parking ticket he found on the truck and tells you that he did put a couple of quarters in the parking meter, but they must not have registered. You smile to yourself and go ahead pay the ticket.

Then there’s the big lie. Let’s say your customer, Mrs. Hastings, calls you at 2:05 and complains that the large IG unit made with tempered over heavy lami has a small break in the corner of the laminated glass. She says your installer left at 2:00 and was heading back to the shop. The installer walks in at 3:55. It is a 20-minute drive from Mrs. Hastings’ house. You ask him about the job and when he left the site. He says the job went
fine and that he left around 3:30.

You have two serious lies here.

So, what do you do when you feel an employee has lied to you? Count to two—that’s two hours. Investigate why you feel you were lied to. Check the facts again. See if there could have been misinterpretation of the facts. Look at it from his point-of-view.

After your two-hour calm-me-down, or at the next morning’s start of the shift, meet with the employee and have another person with you as a non-speaking witness. Use the shop steward if you’re a union company. Explain the problem you have with the information and ask the employee the same questions again. Liars tend to lie according to a script they have in their head. If you get the exact same answer and you believe it’s a lie, it most likely is.

If the employee insists it’s the truth and you feel it’s a lie, bluntly say so. One of two things will happen. He’ll admit his lie, beg to keep his job and promise to never do this again. If you believe him, give a 60- or 90- day suspension. He can keep his medical insurance during the suspension if he pays 102% of the cost. If he insists he didn’t lie, then he’s terminated right then. During the cool-down phase, I always had personnel prepare a payroll check for the time worked that week and any vacation time due. If your payroll is fully electronic, tell the employee that his final check will be processed with the regular payroll.

Be Prepared

When you are sure that the employee has given you a big lie, you must suspend or fire him. If you don’t, when the next big lie comes in, you have set the precedent of not taking action even though your employee manual states the punishment.

Don’t run around and tell your team that an employee was fired because he lied. It will get around on its own. At your next employee meeting you should mention that lying is a cause for management action, and answer questions that come up.

P.S. If you don’t have a “lying section” in your employee manual, I will be glad to consult with you, at no-charge, in writing this. Drop me a note at paulbaseball@msn.com

Paul Bieber has more than 40 years’ experience in the glass industry, with C.R. Laurence and as executive vice president of Floral Glass in New York. He is now the principal of Bieber Consulting Group LLC and can be reached at paulbaseball@msn.com. Read his blog on Tuesdays at http://usgpaul.usglassmag.com.

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