How do I stop the lying?


I have been coaching an employee on performance improvement issues (meeting deadlines / taking ownership of issue). Today I find out he has been lying to me about wanting to get better. He was caught sneeking an hour break to read a book in a hiding place nobody would ever think to look. So he has time to read, but can't meet his deadlines. How do I stop the lying?

Craig, Delaware

Charles Helliwell's Answer:

Oh employee who bends the rules; but then this is hardly a hanging offence is it ?

Your coaching objective is on performance improvement. That's great, because every coaching and mentoring intervention should have some kind of performance improvement metric attached to it; so at least that's a positive step in the right direction.

Now let's take the emotion and invective out and assess what's going on here. Is this individual really lying to you? I suspect not.

He may well want to take ownership of something, however, the work he's currently engaged in probably isn't it. Consequently, it's going to be nigh on impossible to coach him to value his work, if he doesn't enjoy it or find it stimulating.

His hiding away to read a book for an hour strikes me as the behaviour of someone who doesn't want to do the work that's been assigned to them. This is a classic behaviour of avoidance, so coaching them to fulfill this role is frankly a waste or your time and his.

It's time for you to have a grown-up, joined-up conversation about what this individual actually wants to do in your organisation. Then and only then are you and he going to be better placed to make some positive choices to suit you both.

About our Expert

Charles Helliwell
Charles Helliwell

For almost 20 years, Charles Helliwell has been enjoying a lifestyle and making a living as a behavioural and relationship mentor specialising in the personal and professional development of individuals and teams in the workplace.

Older Comments

This would appear to be a classic case of employee disengagement caused by a poor fit between the position and the employee. Quite simply the chances of an employee being engaged in his or her position and taking ownership are going to be quite dismal if he/she is a poor fit for the job. It's kind of like trying to pound a round peg into a square hole - you are doomed from the start. The troubles you are having highlight the need to be absolutely sure that each employee you hire is a good fit for the job. If this is not done, all other coaching and engagement efforts will be fruitless.

Chris Young The Rainmaker Group

Chris Young Bismarck, ND

I feel that when i lie that im impowered and can do anything that i want.. I know that its wrong when I do it but i kinda get in the moment.Is it wrong how i feel???

Is it wrong to get a high out of lying ? Well no, it isn't. It's a perfectly natural condition. There's a frisson to any lie, which is driven by fear and excitement. The fear of being caught out versus the excitement of getting away with it. Everyone is subjected to being told lies as well as telling them. The challenge is to make sure that the lies you are being told will not do you or those around you, irreperable damage; and likewise for the lies you tell others. Sometimes concealing or diluting the truth can be a more palatable medicine than a complete exposure to the full dose. It all depends on the circumstances, although the rule-of-thumb I've always gone by is that sweetening the pill is no bad way of telling it like it is. However, just lying for the sake of it to shift the blame onto others or to avoid taking ownership and responsibility for your actions or lack of them, is not.

Charles Helliwell London, UK