Tag Archives: work

Sound Advice Thursday: the lying colleague

Dear Steph,

I’m in a bit of an awkward situation. Somebody I interact with on a professional level recently lied to me, like, to my face, and as the tarnished words came out of her mouth, her eyes were totally giving her away. The lie was so stupid and insignificant and most of all, I can’t understand why this person did this, especially considering that in less than 12 hours, it would be so obvious that she lied, and not just to me. I was going to let it go but I’m so curious to find out why she did this and whether she thinks I’m stupid or was it just a childish mistake? Should I confront her since this is work related or just let it go and pretend it didn’t happen? I saw her last week and it’s crickets between us because of this elephant in the room. 


Somebody Make This Stop

Jiminy Cricket has had it up to here with this sh*t

Jiminy Cricket has had it up to here with this sh*t

Dear SMTS,

Liars are the worst, right? We’ve all come across people who, for whatever reason, can’t stop themselves from fibbing, even about stupid, inconsequential stuff. I once knew a guy who used to lie about everything — everything — for seemingly no reason. He’d tell us tall tales about what he got up to over the weekend, the women he supposedly charmed, the victories he’d won — but he’d also lie about petty things, like what he ate for dinner last night. My only conclusion about this guy and his propensity to — embellish, let’s say — was that he just could not help himself. Lying was like breathing for him. I think it probably had something to do with attention-seeking: every story had to be inflated or polished in order to make the storyteller sound grander, braver, smarter, or wittier, even when the stakes were low. I wonder if this same thing is going on with your colleague.

You didn’t say what your colleague — let’s call her Judith — lied about, but there are a bunch of reasons why someone might tell a stupid fib at work. Maybe she messed up and was embarrassed to tell you about it. Maybe she had told the same lie to someone else and was trying to be consistent. Maybe she was trying to wrangle an advantage for herself by withholding information from you. Whatever the reason, Judith lied, and now you’re left wondering why.

But let me ask you: would knowing why she lied really make things better? And, assuming it would make things better, do you think she would actually tell the truth if you confronted her about this? The thing about liars is that, well, they lie. So if you back Judith into a corner and ask her “Why did you lie to me about [x]?”, chances are, she’s gonna lie to you about her reasons for lying to you. I suppose it’s possible that she’d come clean and ‘fess up to her dishonest ways and beg for forgiveness, but the odds are low. And if she did tell the truth, well, then you’d know, I guess, but there would be no guarantee she wouldn’t lie in the future. To paraphrase 3LW, liars gonna lie.

So what do I recommend? Unfortunately, since you say the lie was about something inconsequential, this is one of those situations where you just have to let it go. I realize this is easier said than done, but I think it will save you some grief when dealing with Judith in the future. Instead of maintaining a chilly distance with this woman — which she might very well be oblivious to — I say treat her normally, but keep your sensors up around her. That is, forgive, but don’t forget. In a professional context, it pays to be wary around dishonest people, so be careful with the information you share with Judith, take whatever she says with a large grain of salt, and, to the extent possible, verify what she tells you with someone else, if you must rely on the information she gives you. Realize that if she lied to you once, she’ll probably do it again, and proceed accordingly. But maintaining an awkward silence with her is not going to help matters. Better to just act professionally but keep your guard up for future fibs.

Good luck!


Lady of Leisure

Yesterday I took a break from writing. Well, not entirely. I wrote a blog post in the morning, and then frittered away an hour reading blogs and news, and then I went to the gym, and then I got a pedicure and had lunch with a friend. And then I came back home and thought, What shall I do now?

The reason I took the break from writing was because the previous evening, I had finished the latest round of revisions on my novel and had sent it to one of my readers/critics to look over before I did anything drastic, like send the manuscript off to agents. Now that my revisions were done, at least for the moment, I didn’t feel like writing anything, but I also didn’t feel like just sitting there, useless. I had to think of something to do.

I thought, Maybe I’ll pick up my knitting again. I have some nice knitting books and I figured I could do some knitting exercises and practice a bit before attempting to dive into the world of sweaters and bunnies. I searched our apartment and realized that I had not actually brought my knitting needles to South Africa. I brought the knitting books, but not the knitting implements. Which is like me, really.

Then I thought, Maybe I’ll read. But I read every day, a lot. All the time. I had just spent my entire pedicure reading (and ignoring the pedicurist’s snarky comments about my dry heels). A crossword puzzle? I do those every day, too, when I watch TV or listen to podcasts. Watch TV? Too defeatist. Cook? It’s 3:45 pm. Go for a walk? I live in Johannesburg, so that’s not gonna work. Go to the gym? Already did that.

Photo on 2012-07-29 at 14.15


The problem is, there’s this urge in me to always be doing something, to always be busy, to always be thinking. It’s hard to suppress it. At times when there is genuinely nothing for me to do – for example, when I am waiting for feedback on my manuscript – I feel that I must occupy these quiet periods with something useful, or at least creative, or else I am just taking up space, and then what good am I? Point being, I could definitely never be a Lady of Leisure. I would go bonkers. I’d probably end up institutionalized by how bonkers I’d go. But I realize, of course, that this is a good problem to have: deciding how to pass my afternoon when there are no demands on me. But, to be honest, it’s a struggle.

Eventually, I decided to compromise by watching Brideshead Revisited (the 1981 miniseries with Jeremy Irons, not the ghastly movie version with Michael Gabon – the horror!) and doing a crossword puzzle. Not exactly what you’d call productive, but at least I’m not watching The E True Hollywood Story: Lindsay Lohan (again). Eventually, I ended up planning and cooking dinner. I made this, one of my all-time favorite Middle Eastern dishes, which I used to chow down on with some frequency when I lived in Detroit. It turned out well, but next time I’d add sultanas, I think.

Anyway. I really wish I had brought my knitting needles.