lying in the workplace, part 2


Yesterday I wrote about Mary and Veronica, who had lied about their work under my supervision. I caught their “errors” and confronted both.  Mary, who worked hard but often made mistakes, had lied to cover up her lack of comprehension.  Veronica had lied to finish her work more quickly, but understood fully what she was doing.    So what happened?  Who got fired?

Mary was fired. It’s hard to fire someone whose biggest fault is honesty.  She had been struggling for years before she reported to me.  She simply couldn’t absorb the information.  Too much time had passed, and she hadn’t improved; it was clear this wasn’t the job for her.

Veronica wasn’t fired. Yet the senior manager we both reported to made a  blatant threat:  one more time and you will be fired and the reason why will be known in the business community.  No small threat; we worked for one of the most well-respected employers in the city and they could be influential in ruining someone’s career.  I thought that part of the threat was unnecessary, but I told her that since she worked for me, her sole concern should be doing quality work – not quantity.  But Veronica was smart and talented, and so she stayed.

Flash forward a few years… Mary was much happier in an accounting position.  It didn’t demand much judgment.  She didn’t have to travel, or work late.  Nobody expected her to be creative or decisive.  I met her for lunch one day and she was relaxed, happy, confident and most importantly, under no pressure to lie.  Getting fired, she said, had freed her.

Veronica continued to work for me for years. If you’ve worked in project years, you have either experienced or seen the development of near-perfect co-workers.  She and I worked on project after project together, and her abilities grew and grew.  Her focus on details and efficiency complimented what (I hope) were my growing skills in project management and working with clients.  We became good friends.  Her career within the firm took off, and to this day she continues to move up the ladder in her professional life.

Lying in the workplace is a terrible thing. I only have to whisper “Enron” or “most of Wall Street” for you to understand why.  But lying can have consequences far beyond what you imagined.  I was glad things happened the way they did.  It is odd to think that small acts of dishonesty by both women – when caught! – had such lasting positive results.  Never think that honesty alone will guarantee you moving ahead in the business world, or that lying will halt your progress if discovered.  Sad to say, ability will beat out honesty almost every time.

Photo by spaceodissey