lying in the workplace, part 1

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Years ago I supervised two young women on two different projects.  Both were about three years removed from college; I was a new manager being given some guidance by an older and almost comically disinterested manager.  The two young women had a problem in common, even though they worked on separate clients and seldom crossed paths.  Both were liars.

Both had a problem which is common to the field of auditing. Imagine you have a document to audit – an invoice, for example.  Your audit test may be something as complicated as tracing prices back to authorized price tables, or something as simple as verifying that the person who was supposed to sign the invoice actually did.  If everything is fine, you put a note in the audit workpapers saying “no exception.”  If you find problems, you put a note about the exception.  What you don’t do is say everything is fine without checking to make sure it is fine.

Both women had done something along these lines.  I’ll call one Mary and the other Veronica.  Mary lied because she often didn’t understand what she was doing. Mary would look at her assignment and miss the point.  I would explain it to her, or another manager would, and she’d miss the point again.  To start covering for her lack of comprehension, she simply glossed over problems.  She lied to make everything look fine.  But she always was hard at work, and deliberate to a fault.

Veronica, on the other hand, was young and gung ho. She was in a rush, hurrying through her jobs and trying to look fiercely efficient.  She was sometimes sloppy – maybe she’d look at 30 documents and then assume the other 10 were fine.  She’d take a calculated gamble that she wouldn’t miss an exception.  She lied to make herself look fine.

Both were caught. I caught them, the senior manager I was working with caught them, and tears were shed.  Both pleaded for their jobs.  I was still too young to understand myself that the loss of a job is not the end of one’s life.  There will be another job.  But both women were distraught.  They made promises, they begged.  One was fired, and one was not.

I know who was fired, but I wonder what you think. Mary struggled, but she only needed more help.  Maybe a lot, but she was always trying to do her best.  Veronica didn’t struggle – she knew what she was doing and was a driven and focused young woman.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about the outcome.

Photos by Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M

17 comments

  • I am going with Veronica being the one fired with the reason being that she had no room to say it was a 'mistake' that she did it the wrong way. She obviously knew what she was doing without a doubt. There is little defense for that.

  • writerscoin

    Shouldn't they both have been fired?

    I can't stand it when people do stuff like this at work to “look” efficient or come off as more productive. It really drives me nuts.

  • Having a 50-50 chance, I'll still probably get it wrong, but my guess is that Mary was fired. It sounds as if Mary was acting humble, abjectly sorry, and maybe a little depressed and dejected. Managers (not you, of course!!) usually prefer the energetic, ambitious types even when they mess up. I can't wait to find out the answer tomorrow!

  • I would guess that Mary stayed and Veronica was fired. Mary was not intentionally wrong, whereas Veronica was sloppy and careless on purpose.

  • I would probably have fired Veronica myself. She seems more ethically challenged to me.

    But on the other hand both women lied so they both had ethical problem to fix yet Veronica seemed more competent. So logically it might make more sense to keep Veronica.

  • I have managed young and inexperienced people who have made mistakes. I would have kept Veronica. Sloppiness (if that's what it was) is easier to address than lack of competence for a given role.

  • I'm guessing Mary was fired, and Veronica retained.

    Thinking behind it being, an incompetent yet committed heart does not make for the progress that a selectively sloppy ambitious person does.

    Will look fwd to seeing the outcome tmrw.

  • I agree with Curmudgeon and dawaso – Mary didn't sound competent so why keep her?

    What do I win? 🙂

  • I would fire the evil one and keep the incompetent one, for now. Conversely, I would rather work for an evil manager/company than an incompetent one. There's a certain asymmetry here.
    OTOH, given that it happened in the financial field, I guess the evil one got to live 😉

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  • I think Veronica was sloppy rather than evil. Recall what it was like to be young. You drew incorrect conclusions based on inadequate data, because you were impatient for a solution. Time, and knowing that you made a mistake and why, corrects this. I realize she also lied, but then they both did, and that is also a correctable mistake.

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  • wow… this is a good one.

    I think Veronica gets the boot because she was capable to do the job but chose shortcuts instead to complete her tasks.

    Looking forward to the rest of the story.

    Mike

  • wow… this is a good one.

    I think Veronica gets the boot because she was capable to do the job but chose shortcuts instead to complete her tasks.

    Looking forward to the rest of the story.

    Mike

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