When Employees Lie—or Hide the Truth
If you’re lucky, you have good employees, who are honest and hard working. They don’t steal from you and you can always count on them to tell the truth. Or can you? How do you know for sure if employees are hiding the truth or outright lying, unless you catch them in the act?
Here are some examples of less-than-honest behavior that almost always seem to come to light:
- An employee sees another worker taking office supplies home, but does nothing.
- An employee mistakenly breaks a piece of equipment, but he doesn’t admit it or bring it to your attention.
- An employee sends out a post on Twitter that contains incorrect information, realizes her mistake, but covers it up and doesn’t tell you.
When employees lie or hide the truth, does the problem lie with them or with you? Perhaps it’s a good time to take a long, hard look at your company, and ask a few questions:
- Why don’t your employees feel safe admitting mistakes or letting you know you’re being cheated?
- What is your company culture really like?
- How have these types of situations been handled before?
- Are employees in fear of retaliation, termination or ridicule?
- Have you demonstrated trust in your employees?
- Does management view these types of incidents as the cost of doing business, or as big problems?
If you can honestly say that your company has an open and respective culture, where errors are understood and employees are used to giving and receiving feedback, then these types of incidents might be more of an employee problem.
How would you handle each of the above employee scenarios? The first thing to do is to have a talk with your employee. Clarify what really happened and why she reacted the way she did. If no one was notified, why not? Did she not know the correct procedure? Was she afraid? Explain the acceptable behavior and ask for a commitment that she will follow procedures should another incident occur.
Company cultures are living things that need care and feeding. It’s not enough to simply establish a culture and expect everyone to follow and embrace it forever. Keep working on instituting mutual respect, tolerance and communication to prevent lies and secrets from harming over your company.