Reader Dilemma – Would You Lie?

best-buy-managerWe have some very thoughtful people reading this blog and I’m curious to know how you would handle this situation.

Here is the scenario:

You are sitting at your desk typing up an email. Your manager calls you on the phone and asks you to come into the office. A man and a woman whom you’ve never met before, both in suits, are looking at you with furrowed eyes, waiting for an answer.

Your manager says, “This is (put your name here). He is handling your account. I called you in here because I wanted to confirm with John and Lisa that you never received their order. Can you confirm this?” You know that you don’t handle this couple’s account, and it’s obvious to you that your boss wants you to lie to cover for him.

What do you say?

Bosses expect employees to make small lies all the time, but what about the big ones?

Would you lie for your boss?

Have you ever had to lie for your boss?

Let’s talk about it in the comment section.

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19 thoughts on “Reader Dilemma – Would You Lie?”

  1. Certainly not.

    Who knows what the potential repercussions would be? It could all be a test, to see whether I’m prepared to lie to customers, or something.

  2. I would try to elegantly get out of situation. I agree with Solomon that it could be a test and I can’t be certain of what answer he expects from me. So I would say that I need to verify it and check the system and then, you know how systems are… you can’t access them.

    I’d rather cover my own a*s when it comes to big lies. Before putting myself out there, I need to know the repercusions in my own career. If it’s safe for me, then I can proceed with the manager’s orders. If it’s not safe or I’m not sure, I choose the “escape elegantly” route.

  3. Unfortunately, I made lie for my boss. I don’t want to further more things because he might read my post. The thing is he taught me to lie for his wife. He’s in the bar with friends and drinking of beers. He’s wife called into the office where is her husband who is my boss. My told me to lie that his on a meeting. But the truth his somewhere in a bar drinking beers. Dang! I hate to lie. But I am afraid to loss my job.

  4. Here’s what I’ve learned about human nature and lies: there’s a blurred line between a big and so-called little lies. If someone is willing to lie about a little thing, you can bet your arse they’re willing to lie about the big things, too. I’ve seen it time and again. When people are afraid of the truth for whatever reason, they’ll run from it in big and little ways. And eventually, they’ll lie to you.

    Having said that, I know that my nerves in a situation like that (wanting to please my boss) would probably have me knee-jerk agreeing with whatever he said after searching out his face for some indication of “Are you asking me to lie here?” Afterward, I’d have a private discussion with him to let him know I didn’t feel comfortable lying, would not appreciate being put in that position ever again, and as a result of his need to lie, now trust HIM less.

  5. No, I wouldn’t do it. Nothing good ever, ever comes from lying. Just as Megan said, a liar is a liar. Every lie starts somewhere, usually with several small ones, it becomes a lifestyle and the big lies come easy. You think you’ve got everything under control, and then suddenly all the lies are controlling you. It’s all about who I want to be as a person, and I want to be completely authentic and free.

  6. Hmmmm…. that is a tough one Karl.

    Honestly, here is my solution. If I knew that my work environment would subject me to things like that I would remove myself. I am not one for “but you have no choice” – we always have a choice.

    In that moment, maybe I would have to “save their face”, maybe I wouldn’t have, it all depends on – but from then on I would seriously re-evaluate the situation and talk to my boss that I will not do anything like that again. If this was a problem for them, then like I said, I would find another job.

    I don’t think anyone should be in an environment that subjects them to being who they are not, whether that be work or a serious relationship.

  7. Karl,
    I think I’m with Evita on this – it’s a very tough call. Especially knowing as little as we do about the situation. My initial thought is – tell the truth. Yet, it feels so grey for me. First off, why would a boss ask me to lie? Has this happened before? Are there extenuating circumstances? Problems outside of work? What kind of relationship is this with the boss? Unruly customer? I honestly don’t think I can answer what I would do in the situation. As much as I want to say I believe truth is the best option….

  8. Karl,
    OK I’m not going to lie here! I would lie and begin looking for another job immediatley. Because if you’re asked once and you do it you’ll be asked again. If you don’t do it it’s likely you’d be in trouble.

    I wouldn’t lie if I could afford to lose my job at the moment. Absolutely not. Let’s pretend I’m a single mom with three kids struggling to keep my head above water. I’d lie. Talk to the boss. And again begin looking.

  9. I’ve never had a boss that I trusted enough to lie for…I don’t believe in lying, but there are cases when I believe it is necessary. I’ve learned though that in cases like this, lying only makes things worse. Plus, you are setting a precedent and you will likely be asked to do it again.

    At that moment, when you are asked to lie, you hold the power over your boss.

  10. Hi Karl,

    Just as many others have said, this would be a really tough position to be in. Personally, I would not lie because you have no idea of the repercussions and furthermore, it just feels horrible. Like Tess said, I would start looking for another job immediately because behavior like that is bound to occur again.

  11. Before I thank everyone who commented so far I wanted to throw my own 3 cents in. I’ve thought long and hard about this. I’m in Tess’s corner. I would probably lie to please my boss, but I would definitely have a talk with my boss after the people have left. No one deserves to be put in that spot. Then I would promptly look for a new job, non stop, until I found one. It’s not so much that a “lie” bothers me, but what it can lead to. It’s easier to be honest because there is no cover up. When one lie happens there are more to follow.

    Hi Solomon, very true. We don’t know the whole story.

    Hi Claudia, great solution. Side step the lie so you don’t have to. Then figure out a plan that will let you keep your job.

    Hi Techy Mom, that sucks. No boss should put you in that position.

    Hi Megan, lies always lead to less trust. Can you ever trust him or her again?

    Hi Audra, if you can’t be the real you at work then your asking for pain. It’s better to stick to your beliefs.

    Hi Evita, relationships that rely on helping each other lie is doomed to failure.

    Hi Lance, When in doubt go with the truth.

    Hi Tess, very well thought out.

    Hi Nathan, good point. One lie builds on the next and before you know it everything comes crashing down.

  12. The fact that this boss expects his employee to cover for him by lying speaks volumes about their low ethical standards. This boss is probably very capable of stabbing the employee in the back even though the employee covered for him. It’s a lose-lose proposition; I wouldn’t lie.

  13. Wow, this is a tough one. I don’t think there’s any good answer, and I agree that it seems like lose/lose all around. But because the boss in this scenario does pose a question (“Can you confirm this?”), I would want to try to take advantage of the question to at least open a dialogue, perhaps responding, “What other information can you give me about this?” or “I’d like to help but I need more information.” That might diffuse the tension, and buy more time for both the boss and me. Who knows if I’d be brave enough to do that, though, because this scenario is ripe with heart-pounding anxiety, setting off all those inner fear alarms. And that’s exactly why I don’t have a boss!

  14. I think whether or not you (or, in this situation, I) lie becomes secondary to the trust issues that come as a result. Has the boss been lying about bigger things? What’s the next favor I have to do for him or her? Are we lying to cover our shortcomings or is this just to deal with a problematic client? I think there’s a definite Pandora’s box here.

  15. Hi Marelisa, if this boss is willing to put his/her employee in this position then I could see how s/he might stab the employee in the back later on. Better to stay on the safe side.

    Hi Patty, it doesn’t hurt to ask a few questions. If you can save your job, make sure your boss doesn’t look bad and still not lie then it’s a smart way of dealing with this situation.

    Hi Anthony, there definitely is a Pandora’s box here. It’s probably better to not open it up. Like many people have already said, maybe find a new job or try to move to a new department.

  16. I guess my first reaction is: maybe the boss thinks employee handles this account but doesn’t really? I might suggest that there had been an error and I don’t handle the account.

    I’ve never been a good lier. My expressions are an open book, and on occasions when I have lied, it always comes back to bite me. For that, I would probably suggest that a mistake had happened.

    I guess it would also depend on the relationship I had with my boss…

    In reality, the answer would probably only come to me when actually presented with this situation. Thank goodness I’m the boss now!

  17. Okay, here’s how I would handle it.

    (To John and Liss): “Mr. Bossman is correct, I personally never received your order. Actually, I think your account may be assigned to a different department. May I have the details so I can follow up for you? What did you order, and when, and what specifically is the problem that we can solve for you?”

    This saves the boss’s face in front of the customers. This is truthful — you did not receive the order and you didn’t drop the ball. This also acknowledges that your customer has a problem and that you are willing to go the extra mile to fix it.


  18. I’d like to see how others would weigh in on a boss who requires you tell clients he is in a meeting whenever he is busy – and most of the time he is not in meetings, but busy with other things. He says “unavailable” is rude. I say a lie is a lie.

  19. I was asked to send an email with some information to a very important person. My boss was at home and told me to send an email explaining that she was not back from her trip,when in fact she was..I did send the important person the information he needed without the lie that my boss was not back yet. My boss and my boss’s boss spent a few hours trying to figure out together how they were going to respond to my email that I was not comfortable writing something that was not true from my email with my signature. I was ganged up on by my boss and her boss who saw nothing wrong and felt that I should have written the email exactly as I was told..I was told I did not have the right to question and I should do as I am told. I questioned why she did not respond herself since she prides herself on being prompt and copy me to send the needed information. I have since contacted HR. You see I couldn’t win because had one of the other people on this trip happened to talk to this very important person, he would have known that I had lied in my email- guess who takes the fall. Bottom line is I am screwed for refusing to lie. If honesty pays why do all the liars make more money than me?

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