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So you’ve been called out on a big lie at work. Here’s what you should do next.

  • Author: Lynne Curry
    | The Workplace
  • Updated: December 3, 2017
  • Published December 3, 2017

Q: When I landed my job, I thought I'd found a company I'd stay with for years. I liked my supervisor and every one of my new coworkers, and if my work wasn't always interesting, it seemed a small price to pay for the work family I'd found. I've never had much of a real family as both my parents were alcoholics and I've never married.

But I've screwed up. Last Friday my supervisor sent me home early, without pay and told me to think about what I'd done. This morning she gave me a written reprimand and said it was also a final warning because the company "couldn't afford" what I'd done. I messed up an estimate, and as a result we lost a great deal of money on a project. I was afraid I'd lose my job, so I tried to make it look like it was someone else's fault. Now that employee hates me and has told everyone what I did. When I tried to explain to one of my coworkers why I'd done it, how much my job meant to me and that I'd feared being fired, she just shook her head and walked away.

A: Here's what you wanted your coworker to swallow — because you feared losing your job, you dishonestly placed a coworker's job in jeopardy. You excused your actions and rationalized why you threw someone else under the bus. No wonder she walked away.

If you want to keep your job, you have to stop dragging your past with you. This means you need to learn to tell the unvarnished truth, not the weasel truth where you ask others to understand your "reasons why." Here's what you need to say and mean, "I won't do this ever again. I commit to telling the truth, even when it makes me look bad." And this starts with telling yourself you'll make "no more excuses."

Q: I'm the senior manager at our branch. After I stopped one of our exempt employees from what I considered a paid time off (PTO) scam in which she repeatedly worked an hour or two a day when on personal leave and claimed full day pay so she didn't need to deduct the day from her PTO, she acted personally affronted. Then she announced she had a potentially terminal illness.

Our employees have rallied around her, hugging her and bringing her treats. Several have donated PTO to her leave bank so she won't need to worry as her illness progresses. I suspect she's faking this disease. Others on our manager team think I'm being unfair and say that no one would do such a thing. What are my options?

A: You can't accuse an employee of faking an illness based on nothing more than your suspicion. You can, however, investigate as long as you don't create a hostile work environment, violate privacy rights, create the appearance of retaliation or interfere with her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act.

When Colorado postal boss Caroline Boyle faked a cancer diagnosis to get time off work, she got away with it for nearly two years, until she misspelled the name of her supposed physician in the forged doctors' notes she provided her supervisor. Boyle's scam enable her to work from home, work part-time, attend regular doctor appointments and take paid administrative leave that didn't subtract from her sick leave balance.

Appallingly, Boyle allegedly mistreated one of her former employees, Lisa Roberts, who did have cancer. Roberts said Boyle accused her of faking cancer because she hadn't lost her hair and denied her accommodations to deal with her pain, nausea and fear. Boyle allegedly modeled her fraudulent records on Roberts' real ones and asked for accommodations she hadn't given Roberts. Last March, a federal grand jury indicted Boyle and she pleaded guilty, after admitting she had intended to keep up her cancer ruse until she retired.

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