When your coworker lies

Dear Joan:
How do I work around or deal with a co-worker who lies? The management knows this person lies but continues to do nothing about it.
My boss is an owner/executive; he wants to scale down his work load. So, often when I bring up issues concerning the co-worker (who works in another department) my boss downplays things.
One time my boss was told by the employee that a report was put in his mail. My boss checked and it wasn’t there. His assistant called the employee who again said he put it in the mail.
My boss actually raised his voice to his assistant stating “He said he put it there, check again”. It was not there and the next day when it appeared, my boss gave a little chuckle as if to say “Oh, that Paul,” in a knucklehead type of fashion. (Sort of like, gosh darn that Paul, he’s not good at administrative stuff.) And with that we should forget the fact he lied when he said it was put in the mail.
The above is only one example. Today I confronted the co-worker, after sending him five emails and leaving two phone messages, in the span of a month, asking for something. I finally saw him today and confronted him. He told me he did reply, “I replied a few times. Didn’t you receive my reply?” He then stated he was having email issues and that others have not received items he sent by email.
I contacted our IT department, to look into his “Sent items” folder and guess what? There was nothing there.
So, after all that Joan, how do I deal with this if my boss is giving the guy allowances.
I’ve been with the company for 10 years
If you keep poking this skunk, there’s a good chance you will end up smelling pretty stinky yourself. So you might want to consider another approach.
For starters, ask yourself a few questions:
  • What is at the heart of my resentment? I’d guess it’s that you think your boss is letting him off the hook, and you are someone who is accountable and responsible. Does your boss seem to favor him more than you?
  • Has the coworker done something that has negatively impacted your work? It sounds as if he doesn’t get things to you in a timely manner, which probably affects your ability to meet deadlines.
  • Is there something you dislike about him personally? Does his style bug you? Did he do something that offended you or others? Is it your place to ask IT to check on him, to try to catch him in a lie? How would that look to him and to your boss if they knew you did it? Is it possible that he cleaned out his “sent” file?
  • Since you have already made your concerns known to your boss (who is trying to reduce his workload), how will he react to repeated attempts to push him into this “he said/she said” confrontation? Will he start seeing you as part of the problem?
The only person you can control in this situation is you. You can’t force your boss or coworker to behave differently. Your manager has already expressed irritation (raising his voice to his assistant) when he has been pushed by you. He has also demonstrated he is not willing to confront Paul. Perhaps he feels Paul is good at other things, so he is not willing to make a big deal out of his poor administrative skills.
I didn’t say this is fair or right—I’m pointing out what seems like the realities of the situation as you’ve described it. So how much are you willing to push this into a full-blown fight?
Here is another approach: let Paul sink his own ship. How? Go to your boss and tell him, “As you know, I have been very vocal about Paul not getting me what I need in a timely manner. He says he’s sent things—yet, I don’t receive them. I call and email him repeatedly and I keep getting the same answer. It hurts my ability to meet my own deadlines and complete my work and get answers for customers. I am going to stop complaining about him and pursuing him. In the future, I’ll do as much as I can and then let you know if there is something missing from Paul. I realize he reports to you, not to me…and you should be the one to hold him accountable, not me.” Then let go.
You will have made it clear that you will be accountable for your own work. Period. Your manager will get the message and be more likely to act. And if he doesn’t? You will need to find a way to unhook yourself from the emotional frustration you have. In place of it, calmly hand in your work and let him know what he needs to get from Paul to complete it. Over time, your manager will lose patience with Paul, just like you have.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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