Five ways to catch an employee in a lie

Tessara Smith, PayScale

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire! Remember this chant? I sure do. Lately it has come to my attention that not all people in this world are honest and genuine human beings. Well ok, that’s actually pretty obvious, but what happens when these unsavory characters end up under your employment? Feelings of awkwardness, confusion, and maybe even embarrassment can come as a result of working with one of these people. Your intuition tells you that something’s up, but as a professional it can be hard to deal with these workers in a way that is effective and drama free. Manipulative employees happen, it’s an unfortunate truth. As a leader, it is most important for you to be able to identify these dishonest workers so you can quickly remove them from the office before they can do serious damage to your company.

Spotting a liar is easier said than done, but if you can catch an employee telling one fib it will not be too difficult to debunk the rest of their stories from that point onward. Here are a few tactics you can use to identify and confront a dishonest employee.

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  1. They Elaborate– Liars will often give more information than is needed so as to distract you from the fact that there words and actions don’t match up. They may answer questions that only require a yes or no with simple sentences or maybe even longer responses. If something they say just doesn’t sound right then it probably isn’t. Honest employees don’t feel the need to go to bat for their behavior, they show credibility through the work they do and the respect they show others.
  2. Confrontation makes them roll their eyes– A normal employee will have a react to criticism with questions and concerns. Good employees care about what you think of them and will try to work towards having a positive relationship with you. A manipulative employee on the other hand will immediately go on the defensive or worse act bored when you bring up points that you think need to be addressed.
  3. Minimalizes– A good employee understands the goals and needs of the company and will apologize if a major mistake was made on their part. If your employee continually tries to minimize their mess-ups or places blame on others, then they are most likely hiding something.
  4. Pressures you for a reaction– Employees who spin the wheels of manipulation thrive on your emotional responses. If they can’t read you, they can’t adequately lie to you. If an employee continually tries to check in on you to talk about said issue, then they are trying to get a reaction out of you so they can gauge how well you believed their lie. Honest employees don’t need to do this they will take time away from a situation and talk about it with you when both parties are ready.
  5. Shady Body Language– This is a tricky one. Everyone has a different reaction to being placed under stress and employees may exhibit this behavior even when being honest. However, according to the experts too much or too little eye contact, turning away, micro-shrugs, or putting their hand over their mouth are all indications that a person is being dishonest. Look for these, but also trust your gut instincts.

Sometimes it will be painfully obvious when an employee is the manipulative type, other times you may not realize until long after they have left your company. These types of people are dependent on you being too nice to say anything so that they can continue to get away with bad behavior. First of all you should not allow any of your employees to walk all over you, but especially an employee who lies to you and their co-workers. Confront them now and see how they respond. The best case scenario is that you’re wrong and have nothing to worry about; the worst case scenario you have to fire an employee who probably was not an asset to your organization anyways. If nothing else, always remember that the golden rule for making sure you don’t get duped is to “trust but verify.”

Learn more about dealing with troubling employees with this complementary whitepaper: Incivility and Other Types of Workplace Aggression

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