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Calling Out a Liar As a Manager or HR Pro....

Deep thoughts day here at the HR Capitalist.  Deep topic of the day - calling out a liar as a HR Pro.  Seems simple and legit, but like so many things, as you peel it back, it becomes, well...complicated.

My friend Lisa over at HR Thoughts got me started thinking about this topic with the recent short postLiar she did.  You've been there, so I have I.  So has anyone who's ever been in the workplace, working with people:

"There are times when what I have to say must be heard. There are times when I just want another person to know that I know they are not being truthful. There are times I want to take my stand, have my say and to h*** with the consequences. There are times when I choose to take this on. There are times when I do not. Is it wisdom that guides me when I choose to save it for another day?

Or am I falling down on the job?"

Are you falling down on the job as a HR pro when you know someone is lying and don't take it on?  Most of us have felt that burden at some point in our careers.  Like Billy Joel, we didn't start the fire.  It was always burning since the... you know what I mean. 

I think you can compartmentalize how you handle lies you encounter in your role as a HR Pro.  First up, lies involving Fraud, Harassment, and other things your company has a no-tolerance policy towards are are pretty easy to handle.  You attack those, confront, and close the issue down.  That's your job, and you can flex it when you need to, especially in the obvious situations.

It becomes much more gray once you move onto other situations.  What's the lie about?  Can you disclose the source of the "truth" or is it simply your opinion (even if you are never wrong..).  What's at stake with the decision the lie is influencing?  Is it a throwaway, or an important item?  What's the political power of the individual you are calling out?  Are you going to get hurt?  Do others have your back?

Once you sort through that PERT chart, do you have the ability to get the decision/action that's in the best interest of the company changed without calling out the lie?  If so, what's your motivation for calling out the lie?  The right thing?  Ego?  Protection of others?  You're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore?

It's a complex decision when to call out someone who's lying within your role as a HR Pro.  Proceed if you must, make sure you don't get hurt and live to fight another day.

Pick your spots.  If you've struggled with the question and have the skill to ponder the questin, business needs more HR pros like you...


Kelly Dingee

I have a CFO friend that just called out a liar - it was a candidate too - from a TPR - totally fabricated his staff accountant experience.

CFO was diplomatic (because the candidate FREAKED!) and said something to the effect of know in accounting you really need to be honest and accurate about your experience, because it's one of those jobs if we hire you, we'll know when you start that it wasn't true.....fix your resume so that it reflects your real experience, not what the job calls for....

And of course, didn't hire the guy.......but this CFO is huge on honesty, credibility, integrity (I guess they all should be right?).....lying to him is the tip of the iceberg of multiple other issues an employee can have.



I don't envy your (HR Pros) position. But in IT, it happens more than 50% of the time.

The "it was like that when I got here" is a classic. We can look at log files gringo, we know what you did!

Or the other favorite, "It worked like this yeaterday" when you know the function/service has been disabled for over a year.

I guess for us, calling everyone out just puts us in the unemployment line.

We are just as likely to get lied to from the CFO as an administrative assistant.

Jessica Lee

so, i'm thinking that the heart of the issue is in this line that you wrote--

"do you have the ability to get the decision/action that's in the best interest of the company changed..."

whether or not to call out the lie is really a question of whether what's in the best interest of the organization is at stake. it's just that how you say to someone, "i think you're lying," that isn't easy. staring them down sometimes is a good enough substitute. you know, one of those i-know-you-know-that-i-know what's going on here kind of glares.

man. when did the role of HR get so political? ugh. sometimes just administering LOA daily seems like heaven...


I work in a server support environment, and I have had coworkers lie to me about their level of effort on tasks. When they call me and ask me for help or try to hand off the problem/workload, I usually offer to assist them by working through it with them together. First, I'll ask what they've done -- and if I notice that they haven't done it, I just state, "The logfile shows that nobody has performed xyz activity since such and such a date." Then, I will state that I don't see evidence that the issue had even been worked and what I needed them to perform are steps 1 through 5 and then call me back so we can work through issues together. I usually don't get calls back unless the issues are legitimate issues. And, the individual is usually prepared for the questions I will ask. I believe that this approach has made me stronger in the workforce, so I use it on others. It does nobody any good to pretend they believe somebody who is lying.

Now, I do have a coworker who has the sickest dog on the planet and has contractors over or errands to run every week. In short, he has the worst attendance problem. So, when he says he has to go for reason X or reason Y, I may crack a joke stating that he has the sickest dog on the planet or that he already had his window crack fixed last week, but I really can't verify either way the truth of his stories. So, I just leave it at that.

HR Wench

I have a recruiter friend that was interviewing an internal candidate that claimed to have a Juris Doctorate (which was required for the position). Turns out he didn't...and I think he was caught in a couple of other lies as well. Guess what his response was when he was confronted by corporate counsel (hiring manager)? "Witness Protection Program"

My friend about peed her pants.

Totally Consumed

Lying is bad. Honesty is good.

Alexandra Levit

Kris, I would think that if anyone has a justification to confront a liar, it would be the HR guy. Lying is bad for business.

But I would agree that there's a time and a place. If the lie is relatively harmless, or you aren't 100% sure that the person is in fact lying, then it might not be worth it to stir the pot.

Thanks to you and Lisa for continually discussing these difficult issues that HR pros face every day and no one ever talks about. You guys should write a book!


Alexandra Levit
Author, Success for Hire
Blogger, Water Cooler Wisdom


Kris, I appreciate the post, the link, and all of the great comments. Lying is bad, honesty is good . . . .and then there is the gray.

You hit it right on when you said, "What's at stake with the decision the lie is influencing? Is it a throwaway, or an important item? What's the political power of the individual you are calling out? Are you going to get hurt? Do others have your back?"

That's whay we get paid the big bucks, ha!

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