Everyone can pretty much agree that lying isn’t a good practice, especially when it comes to lying to your boss. But occasionally, it can seem necessary—like when you say you need to take a long lunch for a dentist appointment, when you’re really meeting a friend for, well, a long lunch. It can also happen in a moment of panic—like when your boss suddenly asks if you’ve contacted that client you said you would, and you immediately say yes, even though you know it’s not true.
Initially, those lies seem pretty innocuous and you might be able to cover your tracks. But you will get caught sometime. Your boss will, for example, happen to walk by your tucked-away table at the restaurant (“This doesn’t look like the dentist’s office”) or receive an email from that client you promised to call, stating that no one has contacted… Rather than gain a reputation of being a deceptive, untrustworthy employee—or worse—get fired, here are a few smart things you can do:
Don’t extend the lie. When your boss catches you in a lie, it’s going to be tempting to try to get yourself out of the awkward situation by lying again. But if you do you’re digging an ever deeper hole and things are only getting worse.
Start with an apology. Instead, start with an apology. A simple “I’m sorry I wasn’t honest about that” will work—just make sure it’s genuine and conveys your remorse.
Offer an explanation. Then, explain what your thought process was. Most of the time, there’s something not-so-malicious behind the lie. An explanation may not excuse you 100%, but it adds a human element to the situation and will allow your boss to see the issue from your eyes.
Offer an immediate remedy. If there’s an issue that needs to be addressed immediately, make sure your boss knows what you plan on doing and in what timeframe. Your boss needs an assurance of how you’re going to remedy the situation.
…And what you’ll do next time. Then, make sure your boss knows how you’ll approach this kind of situation in the future: “If I’m unsure about another client situation in the future, I’ll make sure to come to you for guidance immediately.”
Of course, it’s best to avoid lying to your boss in the first place. Strive for truthfulness always.