my boss lied to a client about getting engaged, talking with job applicants pre-interview, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My boss lied to a client about getting engaged

My boss recently visited some of my clients who were out of state. In an effort to build rapport, he told them he was planning to propose to his girlfriend over the weekend. (I’m not sure why he wouldn’t talk about the weather or sports, but whatever). He has no intentions of proposing, and did not propose that weekend.

He asked me to send the follow-up materials to the client, and when I did, she replied and cc’d him and asked how the proposal went. This is where it gets weird. He then sent a follow-up email, detailing in multiple paragraphs the proposal and including pictures of him with his girlfriend. The client and members of the team all congratulated him.

Maybe this was just a joke and he was having a laugh (although if I was the girlfriend I’d be annoyed! – he is not engaged) but what worries me is how easily he lied, and then I realized he’s told white lies (stretched the truth?) about other stupid stuff that isn’t even worth lying about. Now I have to deal with a client who is super excited to work with us and keeps asking for updates. I’ve talked about this to a trusted friend at work and we agree my boss crossed the line with the email and photos.

Advice on how to handle the clients? Just shrug it off? How can I tell my boss he needs to cool it with the little white lies? He’s still young, only 27, so I feel he needs to get the straight path before these lies get bigger and bigger.

What the hell!? Seriously, this is so weird. And even weirder and more disturbing that he kept the lie going — the multi-paragraph description of the proposal and the photos take this from one instance of bad judgment to a real integrity and character issue.

I’d say this to your boss: “Hey, Jane keeps mentioning your engagement and I feel really uncomfortable lying to her. Can you tell her the engagement is off or postponed or something? I really don’t want to be in the middle of this.”

If you can also get your coworkers to make it clear that y’all don’t think this is funny and that in fact it’s disturbing and makes you uncomfortable, that might disincentivize him the next time he’s thinking of doing something like this. (That also means don’t laugh just to smooth over your discomfort when he talks about it; he sounds like he’ll think you’re laughing along with him. Shocked, uncomfortable looks are what you want here.)

But you know, your boss is a liar, and willing to lie for the smallest of reasons. Proceed with caution with this guy.

2. Talking with job applicants pre-interview

I will be leaving my job at the end of the month, and I am helping my company find my replacement by interviewing candidates (and I hope to be able to train the new person before I leave). This is my first time on the interviewer side.

I sent the job description out to my professional network, as I have done with previous openings at the company, and a few people are interested. In the past, I’ve met or talked with interested people who got in touch to answer questions about the company before they apply, but those have always been for jobs in other departments. Now that I have a say in hiring, should I decline requests to talk about the company and job ahead of time? I want to be sure we find the right person for this job, so on the one hand I would like to “screen” people if I can, but on the other hand I don’t know if this is would be ok to do as an interviewer.

Sure, that’s still fine to do if you were doing it before — that’s part of recruiting, in fact (or at least in some recruiting models). That said, you should balance it against other priorities in front of you, which probably means that you shouldn’t talk with everyone who asks to talk ahead of time. Instead, strive to only talk with the people who look strongest, while saying something to the others like, “As a first step, I’d encourage you to throw your hat in the ring, since we’ve found that the best way to explore a possible fit is to steer people to the process we’ve created, and I’ll make sure that you get all your questions answered if we move forward.”

You should also try to assess whether the people asking to talk first genuinely have questions they need answered before they decide whether or not apply, or whether they’re just looking for a back door to getting interviewed. For the latter, you’re better off directing them toward your formal process (unless they’re incredibly strong candidates, in which case you might fast-track them anyway).

3. Employee is upset that he didn’t know his coworker was applying for the same job as him

Two of my employees recently applied for the same position within the company on a different team. One of them was very vocal about his application, while the other applied for the job quietly. The vocal employee did not know that his colleague was applying until we told him that he did not get the job. He asked who got the position, and was told that it was his coworker.

I helped both of them with their applications, but did not talk to them about the fact that the other was applying. Now the person who was rejected is upset that he did not know about the other person applying for the job, and at least partly blames me for not telling him. Was it my responsibility to say something? How should I proceed from here?

No, not at all. He presumably understood that there would be other candidates for the job, since that’s a normal part of applying for a job, and he couldn’t reasonably have expected you to tell you who they were.

I’d say this to him: “Some people prefer to keep it quiet when they’re applying for another position, and we make a point of respecting that and taking people’s confidentiality very seriously. We don’t want anyone to feel that we’d share their personal information with others in that situation, and we’d do the same for you if you asked us to.”

4. Should I let employees know when I’m paying them for time they didn’t work?

Recently, I had an hourly employee who hasn’t worked a full eight-hour day during the last six months that she was with us (she was late most days and left early due to personal matters), but I still always paid her for a full day. The reason was because she constantly complained about how she was short on money and had asked for raises three times during this time (I gave it to her each time).

I had to let her go because she was simply not what I was looking for in terms of her work ethic, low work performance, careless mistakes, and intention to instigate work drama.

Before she left, she said that I did not have to tell her when I overpaid her because it was as if I was gloating and that I made her feel guilty (she also said she would have seen the overpayment on her own). Is this true? As employers, are we obligated or are we not supposed to explain to employees when we have intentionally overpaid them as a generous gesture? How did this message get misconstrued?

Relatedly, if I let the staff go early because it’s a long holiday and I clocked them out at 5:30 p.m. (the end of a full day), is it okay to tell them or just let them figure it out when they see the payment stubs/paycheck?

I don’t know exactly what you said to her or how you said it, but in general, no, there’s certainly nothing wrong with letting an employee know that you paid them for a fully day even though they didn’t work a full day. It’s possible to say it in a rude or obnoxious way, of course, but a simple statement of fact? There’s nothing wrong with that. And really, you were being generous; it’s a bit much for her to turn around and criticize you for not being generous in exactly the way she wants.

For what it’s worth, it sounds like you were way too generous with her — keeping someone on who never worked a full day, let alone giving them raises, despite what sounds like low performance — can go beyond “very generous” and cross over into problematic, if it signaled to your other employees that you’re not willing to hold people to basic standards of reliability and performance. In any case, this is a person who sounds like she took advantage of you; don’t let her further mess with you by convincing you that you did something wrong in letting her know you’d paid her for full hours.

As for the other question about letting staff know that when you let them go early, you’re paying them for the full day — yes, do let them know. Some people may be torn between appreciating the early dismissal and worrying about losing the pay, so it’s a kindness to let them know as you’re releasing them that they’ll be paid for the full day. They’ll enjoy it more that way.

5. Can my company hold my check until the next pay period?

As an hourly employee in California, I am required by my company to turn my hours in by Monday morning. Our company does everything they can to do as little as possible for their employees. Because I am rarely in the area my shop is in, I have to email a copy of my hours to the secretary. Every week for the last 8 months, it has worked just fine. Well, two weeks ago I emailed my hours on Sunday night and they said they didn’t get them until Tuesday and that I have to wait till next payday to collect both checks.

Is that legal? And as an hourly employee, am I required to turn my hours in on my own or are they supposed to collect my hours?

Nope. California law requires that w ages earned between the 1st and 15th days of the calendar month must be paid no later than the 26th day of that same month, and wages earned between the 16th and last day of the month must be paid by the 10th day of the following month. And if your company sets up other payroll periods (such as weekly or biweekly), your wages must be paid within seven calendar days of the end of the payroll period within which the wages were earned.

So now, they can’t hold it, unless it fall within what’s allowed above.

They can, however, require you to turn in your hours on your own. But if you don’t or the system otherwise fails, they still need to ensure that you’re paid on time.

{ 219 comments… read them below }

  1. PEBCAK

    #2 sounds worried about being “unfair” to candidates by speaking with them in advance of an interview, but remember, you don’t owe anyone a “fair” process, you owe them one in which they are not judged on things irrelevant to the job and providing more time or better answers to better candidates is a-okay.

  2. LisaLee

    #4: Why on earth did you give this woman THREE RAISES despite all her performance issues? I’m all for employers treating employees generously and fairly, but you do not give poor performers raises because they “need the money” unless you were grossly underpaying to begin with. That’s not how any of this works, and I would seriously reevaluate how you give promotions and raises.

    But really, she sounds like an employee with lots of problems, and you really shouldn’t listen to her criticism of your generous gesture.

    1. Kate M

      #4, I agree that you were overly generous with this employee, and you were right to let her go. However, if you were reminding her that she was paid for a full day every time she left early (especially if it happened almost every day), I can see why that seems weird. Not that you shouldn’t have told her, but it almost seems like you were using it as a management tool, like you were trying to make her feel guilty for leaving early and hoping she would correct it on her own. Like saying “well, you left early AGAIN today, but we’ll pay you for the full day AGAIN” (with the hopes that she’ll see you being generous and not try to take advantage of that, when it’s clear she already does). If she’s not getting the message, which she obviously didn’t, then you need to be more straightforward. Address the leaving early, instead of the pay. Tell her straightforwardly that attendance is important, and that that she needs to work on that, and if she doesn’t there will be consequences (including being let go, or not being paid for hours she doesn’t work). Obviously this isn’t an issue with her anymore, but think about why you’re saying these things.

      1. OP #4

        Kate M, I have addressed her attendance issue, both written and verbal. We have had meetings addressing attendances/tardiness…but in the end, I have learned I have to strongly enforce these rules before something like this happens again. This issue now is really not having the other employees be influenced negatively, hopefully it’s not too late.

      2. The IT Manager

        Yes! While agree that employee was in the wrong, it sounds like every paycheck where you inflated her hours which is every paycheck for her last six months you mentioned that you did so. You should mention whenever it happens, but this situation should not have gone on for so long. I think it’s not so much the telling/gloating but the repeated personal favors would indeed be guilt inducing to most people. And the fact that she said she felt guilty at least validates that she knew she was in the wrong even if she never managed to correct the problem. OTOH I can’t believe how ballsy it is to ask for a pay raise when you can’t even put in a full work week.

        I do wonder, though. I once had a passive aggressive boss who joked about everyone clearing out by 4:30 everyday for a few weeks before I had a light bulb moment where I realized he might just be really annoyed by it. He was so damn unclear and weaseled out of the tough conversation by making it joke we didn’t realize that he wanted the office manned until 5:00 everyday because the bosses might stop by. So I guess my point is, how did you have these conversations with her? Did you soft pedal? Did you promise consequences that you never implemented until you fired her?

        That’s the other thing. You shielded her from the consequences for far too long. By never letting her feel the impact of her tardiness and absences , you conveyed to her that it really didn’t matter.

        Really what she said was dumb, you should tell people when you’re inflating their hours for things. But this situation never should have gone on for six months and its so unreasonable that it did, it’s near impossible to draw any info on workplace good practices from it. But if you let hourly employees leave early on a slow day, yes, tell them they won’t be docked pay so they don’t have to worry about it. And if you, out of the goodness of your heart, pay someone for a full pay period even if they missed some time you should mention it too with the warning that it can’t keep happening and them actually enforce consequences for poor performance.

    2. TootsNYC

      I think that paying her for hours she didn’t work BECAUSE SHE WAS LATE sent her the message that she could take advantage of you. Bad move. Because why would she want to be on time, why would she think she needed to please you?

      I pay my hourly workers for hours they were not here–but not when THEY are late. Only when *I* cut their pre-spoken-for hours. We have a contract; if I break it (by sending them home early) I pay the financial penalty. If they break it (by coming in late, taking a long lunch, leaving early), THEY pay the financial penalty.
      You really shot yourself in the foot.

      Being a wuss, being undeservedly generous, only underline the message that she doesn’t need to do anything to be a good worker.

      And that was really wimpy–“not paying someone” for the hours they don’t work is the easiest of discipline efforts!

      I hope you can really work on toughening up your spine. Believe me–it’s good for people to be held accountable. It’s not mean or ungenerous of you. This woman has learned some really bad habits, and you reinforced that. She’d be in a stronger place, for her own sake, if you’d refused to pay her for hours she didn’t work; said to her, “You need to be here on time”; said to her, “These mistakes aren’t acceptable. The job needs more than that from you.”

      1. OP #4

        TootsNYC, mostly agreed. I am working on tightening the ship. However, I don’t believe this has anything to do with courage or bravery. For the most part, I do my best to be fair and rather over-provide than under because I wanted to build a relaxed work culture since our my business relies on creativity and open communications (stringent workplace will hinder this). Obviously, I let her overstep her boundaries and am taking measures to being a better employer/manager.

        1. LBK

          Remember, though, that you want to build a relaxed work culture *filled with good employees*. Any culture that allows bad employees to get away with bad behavior is never, ever, ever going to be a good one, never mind an open, relaxed and creative one, because good employees don’t want to work with bad ones. They want productive, motivated coworkers that they can feed off of and feel comfortable talking to because they’re on the same page. I have no interest in openly communicating or sharing my creativity with a bad employee.

          A relaxed work environment isn’t one with no rules or standards. Being relaxed at work doesn’t mean not being accountable to productivity. I’ve worked for a “relaxed” manager before – it was a total nightmare because I could never trust anyone to get anything done, so my stress level was through the roof cleaning up everyone else’s messes and trying to reconcile that it wasn’t the hardest workers that got rewarded, it was the squeakiest wheels, because management didn’t feel it was “fair” to write people up or fire them for not doing their jobs.

          Finally, on the concept of fairness – it’s extremely unfair to give leeway to bad employees that haven’t earned it. If you want to be fair, part of that is holding everyone to the same high standard and rewarding those who meet it.

          1. DeadQuoteOlympics

            + Millions. LBK has laid out really clearly why this is a morale issue that will affect your better employees and contribute to a work environment where you won’t retain them. It also sets a really bad example for new-to-the-work-world employees or employees that could improve in the right environment with the right models and incentives. I’ve been a high-achieving employee in a “relaxed to the point of dysfunction” environment, and I’ve hired and supervised teams where one employee wasn’t measuring up, and as a manager you have to be seen to be applying the proper consequences (not that everyone needs to know what the consequences are — just that an employee either has to improve to standards or be let go, and that’s a visible process.) I’ve heard directly from some of my best employees over the years that they are grateful that I’m willing to address non-performance because 99% of the time it directly affects other employees’ workloads or general service quality (and your good employees care deeply about issues like that).

            I can’t believe I am actually able to comment on an ongoing discussion in the middle of the workday, I feel like I am actually able to give back to the community that’s given me so much!

    3. OP #4

      This now ex-employee was a referral from a close friend so yes, I was wrong to have shown favoritism and paved leeway for flexible schedules because I fell for her sob stories (she was paid at an agreed amount and the raises were in part due to “helping” her). I am new at this being-the-boss thing and I intend to learn from this grossly mistake and be more firm with the office rules/guidelines with my staff going forward. I am glad to be reassured that it’s right thing to do by letting employees know of my good intentions.

    4. eplawyer

      This gets me too. I get the manager was trying to be nice (see her response below), but just because someone needs money is not a reason to give them more money. It’s like the guy yesterday who couldn’t come to work because he had no gas in his car. Okay, fine. But why should he get a raise over everyone else in the office? You give raises based on performance, not need. Because face it, we could ALL use some more cash. Susie doesn’t get a bigger raise than Wakeen because Susie has 4 kids. And Wakeen doesn’t get a bigger raise than Fergus because he has medical bills to pay. The salary is the salary. The raises are based on performance and what the company can afford to pay someone in that position.

      When did it beomce I should be paid like a special snowflake regardless of everyone else and the effect on the company?

      1. LBK

        Yesterday’s story wasn’t the same, though, because he was a high performer. If you give someone like that a need-based raise because the alternative is that they quit, that is ultimately a merit-based raise because it says “The work that you’re doing is valuable enough that I’m willing to pay you X amount for it.” Now, arguably that’s the standard by which you should be paying everyone anyway, so maybe it’s worth examining salaries overall when you find yourself being willing to give out a raise to retain someone – that probably means you’re underpaying in general.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger

      Yeah – 27 is young for some things still, but about two decades too late to excuse random lying…

      1. UKAnon

        +1, I think anyone past the teenage years where you try and construct your own perfect universe knows this is a ridiculous way to behave.

        OP would a simple “I don’t know, he never really talks to us about it. As regards what you asked…” suffice?

        (My devil also says that if you ever meet his partner you should congratulate her on her engagement but that’s probably not wise)

    2. Night Owl

      Wow, it’s so weird when internet people don’t match your mental picture of them. For some reason, I envisioned you as like 40’s.

        1. Dan the Younger

          Shoot, that’s not the first time this has happened, either. (I lurk a lot, but only post occasionally.)

          *Ahem* I apologize for any confusion. Going forward, I will be sure to use a more recognizable name, which distinguishes me from the other Dan who posts here.

          How was that, AAM?

    3. Raine

      I just can’t help but wonder if he really is engaged, because otherwise the lie is just so extreme (as opposed to being a little white lie) that it boggles the mind.

      1. Night Owl

        That’s where my mind went also. Is there any chance he’s actually not lying? It’s not like he doesn’t have a girlfriend at all. Is it possible they’re engaged but not ready to announce to everyone, so keeping it on the down low closer to home? These clients were in another state, after all. Perhaps he didn’t feel the need to hide it from them (particularly if someone else brought up relationships / proposals or whatever), because he figured the chance of it leaking to family/friends is much lower and may not have expected them to mention it in an email to the OP.

        The letter isn’t really clear whether the boss told the OP about lying to the clients or whether the first she heard of it was in the email the boss responded to. If the latter, maybe he is engaged and just hasn’t told them yet. Does seem like a bit of a stretch, but it’s the most logical explanation I can think of.

        1. chilledcoyote

          It came across to me as a way for him to make the sale. If it’s really just a flat-out lie, and not a cover for the planned proposal not happening for whatever reason, it was highly effective in roping in the client. They are thrilled and want to talk about it/him.

          I guess the only problem is you can’t get engaged every time you meet a client, just like your grandma can’t die every time you have a paper due in college.

      2. Ann O'Nemity

        I was wondering if he really did plan to propose but it went badly and now he’s trying to cover up his shame. Who knows. I just keep grasping at some possible justification for someone lying like this for no apparent reason.

      3. Urban_Adventurer

        I could totally see Michael Scott doing this. Real life humans? Not so much.

        1. Clever Name

          I actually thought this might be about my old boss, but he’s in his 50s, so yeah, sometimes actual humans do make stupid lies for stupid reasons.

        2. Buffay the Vampire Layer

          He did! The episode after Holly moves to NH and they break up Michael told everyone in the office that they had gotten engaged. It’s only when they insist he call his mom that he gives up the story.

      4. Barefoot Librarian

        I think I would simply proceed with him as if I assume it to be the truth. It’s less funny than congratulating his girlfriend on the engagement, but would still make him uncomfortable with the lie. Rather than wait for clients to ask about the engagement, I’d ask him about it at every reasonable opportunity lol.

        “So Bob, did Karen pick out a wedding dress yet? I know it took me months to find the right one!”

        “Hey Bob, I read this article about the bride and groom sharing a sweetheart table instead of sitting with the in-laws and maid and man of honor. Isn’t that an interesting twist? You and Karen should consider doing something like that”

        I could see this particular brand of punishment being very entertaining.

    4. Cari

      Some people, no matter their age, will lie and embellish the most trivial of things to get attention and reputation.

      1. MJH

        Yep, I had a boss who lied about everything, most of which was just completely stupid. I guess he wanted laughs and attention, but we were constantly baffled by why he chose to lie or embellish a particular story. It was bizarre, but, from what I hear, not really uncommon.

        1. SystemsLady

          My old boss would tell stupid lies to mess with people. Stuff like saying to Tom, “Oh wow, with regards to that mistake he made, your coworker Bob is really going to get a talking to today. He screwed up!”

          Then he’d go and talk to Bob and have a completly cordial conversation, even saying “Yeah, I really got Tom worried about you earlier! He thought I was going to yell at you! Haha!”

          I think he knew we were all on good terms with each other and for some reason thought it was funny and tried to play games with that?

          This is all underlined by the fact that this happened in cases where him yelling at Bob would actually be the thing he’d normally do.

      2. Another HRPro

        Very true. When people do stupid things like this I treat it like a gift. They have shown you who they really are and that is very useful information.

      3. Ineloquent

        I was like that once. I would lie about the stupidest stuff, and people believed me. It was fun to me. The lies were really outrageous, but people believed them. It gets to be addicting.

        I stopped, because my fiance said that it was a deal breaker for him. Shockingly, he didn’t want to end up with someone who he couldn’t trust.

    5. LBK

      Yep, 25 here, my jaw dropped at the complexity of this lie. I could see maybe bending the truth a little to build rapport with a client, but I’m talking brushing up on a recent sporting event you wouldn’t normally watch so you can pretend to be a fan. Not faking a major life event to the point that you’re constructing elaborate accounts of how the proposal went.

    6. Anonicorn

      Because of how ridiculous this is, I’m wondering if the boss told a white lie about getting engaged and things spiraled out of control, sort of sit-com-esque.

      1. Cat

        I was wondering that too. I can imagine feeling pressured to tell clients you’re getting married. I’ve known people in long-term relationships who did just pretend they were married to conservative clients from out-of-town who they worried wouldn’t approve of their partnership arrangements. But . . . this is pretty over the top, so I don’t know.

      2. Thinking out loud

        This was my thought. At my first job, a coworker was asking me what I was going to make my boyfriend for dinner for some occasion. She insisted I should make him a particular dish, and I didn’t want to make him that. But I was bad at standing up for myself and I figured it would be easier if I just agreed, so I did. Then, of course, I had to tell her later that I did make them and that they were good. And then she met my boyfriend a couple of days later, asked him how the meatballs were, and I looked like a crazy person. Moral of the story: Tell the truth to start, be non-committal or admit that “it didn’t work out” afterwards to avoid looking crazy.

      3. chilledcoyote

        Maybe he was drunk and feeling creative when he wrote the long, detailed email!

    7. AVP

      My boss is 60 and he’s the grown-up version of OP’s boss. Still lies all the time, about the dumbest things, for no reason except to make himself sound a little more together or impressive – which I never get because in most cases the truth is impressive enough, and the lies are easily discoverable by anyone with google.

      FWIW, I’m reasonably sure our clients know and are rolling their eyes behind his back. We all do. One time I called him out – not on purpose. He said something that I was genuinely surprised to hear because I knew the truth to be different and I thought I might have had it wrong. I said something like, “Oh! Did you buy that house in California? I thought you just borrowed it from your friend.” [I handle his finances so that would be…a big difference.]

      He responded: “No. But thats just the truth I’ve created for myself.”

      I want to put “the truth I’ve created for myself” onto a mug, a t-shirt, and possible his eventual gravestone.

    8. Stranger than fiction

      Agreed. I’ve heard of lying to get sales but i don’t get his motive here and he didnt need to perpetuate it

  3. Panda Bandit

    #4 – You treated her much better than she deserved. Constantly coming in late, leaving early, bad work performance, AND trying to start drama? In most other workplaces she would have been fired after a very short time. She’s trying to paint herself as the victim here but don’t fall for it.

    1. Ama

      Yes, I really think the coworker is grasping at straws trying to find *some* justification for why she’s the wronged party in this situation.

    2. OP #4

      Panda Bandit, thank you. I have to take responsibility for this also, I allowed it. It did bother me because I couldn’t understand why it was wrong to let employees know when I was trying to help. Anyway, I know being firm is that way. With that being said, we live and learn. I do hope this hasn’t affected the others that are still here because she still keeps in touch with a crucial member of my team and I worry she has already polluted his thinking since he is the reason I reached out to Alison.

  4. Cambridge Comma

    LW1, while in the long term you will be working out whether you want to work for a compulsive liar, in the short term you could just say to the customer, “The wedding? You know, I really don’t know any of the details. Pinocchio hasn’t talked about the wedding much in the office.” There is a tiny piece of middle ground between lying for him and exposing him that you can stand on. They aren’t likely to be suspicious, because what normal person would completely invent an engagement like that?
    Or:
    “He’s so focused on work, it’s as if the whole engagement thing never even happened!”

  5. Nutcase

    #1 If he was lying about everything this is so very bizarre and awkward for everyone but how can you be so sure he was lying? You mention that you know what his intentions were (or lack of) towards getting engaged. Has your boss spoken to you about his relationship goals? I’m not trying to prove you wrong, I am attempting to understand how such a situation could happen. 1) Either he is a weird lying liar for no apparent reason (actually believable looking at all of the weird stories on this blog), 2) Giving him the benefit of the doubt he has given off completely the wrong impression at work about his intentions towards his girlfriend and may actually have been planning to propose? 3) He actually did propose and get engaged, or 4) he proposed, it went horribly wrong and now he’s working hard to save face.

    1. Sunflower

      I agree with you Nutcase! I actually disagree with Allison’s response on this. I would just be straight up with the boss and say ‘I’m a little confused. Client said you got engaged, and you sent that email detailing it. Did I miss something? Did you get engaged this weekend?’ I don’t know you or your boss or the situation but I would not walk up to your boss and tell him you aren’t okay lying for him unless you are 100% sure he actually is.

      I would say that and if he says he isn’t engaged/made it up then I’d either follow up with Allison’s response or just play dumb for the client. It’s not like you’re lying- obviously he doesn’t talk about the engagement or wedding plans in the office! Although I’d totally agree with what everyone else has said about being cautious of a guy who tells little white lies all day, everyday.

  6. Myrin

    In an effort to build rapport, he told them he was planning to propose to his girlfriend over the weekend. (I’m not sure why he wouldn’t talk about the weather or sports, but whatever).

    This is what boggles my mind, seriously. I mean, the whole thing boggles my mind, but this is just the first step and I’m already all “WHAAAAAA-?”. Did these clients show themselves to be absolutely wedding-obsessed and not accepting of anyone not (about to be) married or something? From the OP’s description, it doesn’t sound like it. And really, why would he go there of all places instead of just making pleasant small talk about something else? So weird.

    1. brightstar

      It reminds me of a sitcom or movie where a character has to pretend to be married or engaged because the client expects it.

      1. Sparky

        But now the fiancee will have to die in a tragic threshing accident, to explain away the engagement. Or, die saving a pack of llamas from a sex club. Or something…

    2. mskyle

      Also, what kind of a crazy person tells a random client that he’s going to propose? Like, tell a close friend, I guess? But telling acquaintances and strangers seems very very strange to me, even if you actually *are* planning to propose.

  7. Chocolate Teapot

    1. The cynic in me wonders if there was a romantic attachment between the boss and one of the clients in the past and the boss was trying to score points with their rejected sweetheart.

    1. Apollo Warbucks

      At least that would make some sort of sense, I can’t for the life of me work out the purpose of this lie.

    2. Ani

      Oh, see, the skeptic in me wondered whether the OP might be in denial and leaving out an important detail (like having had a relaionship with the boss just a few years ago while both were in college).

      1. HWL

        This made me laugh out loud. I am the original poster – and all I can say is EWWWWW!
        It seriously does sound like something out of a screenplay. He did tell me he made up the story, and he did lie. So weird – thanks for the laughs.

        1. catsAreCool

          It sounds like something from a sitcom or a romantic comedy, but like the kind of thing that wouldn’t work well in real life.

    3. MegEB

      Normally I’d say that’s a stretch but this is such a bizarre letter that I feel like anything could be possible.

  8. Evergreen

    #2 something about this… Doesn’t add up? Did she come out and say this to you apropos of nothing? Or was this in the context of a conversation?

    Sometimes it can be easy to use generosity as a retrospective bargaining chip (in this instance like ‘well I was really nice to you by giving you these raises but now I have to let you go’).

    To be clear, I can totally imagine that she’s just inciting drama – ignore me if that’s what happened! But if not i think it would be …fairer, maybe, to your staff generally if you treated raises as a direct result of exceeding agreed-upon targets rather than some kind of beneficence on the part of the employer.

    But I’m taking a huge leap here! i’m sorry if i’m way off the mark!

    1. OP #4

      Evergreen, this question to Alison was as direct and exact to situation as possible. Meaning, nothing was taken out of context. The ex-employee did constantly challenge my authority and said directly to me that I did not have to tell her when I overpaid her. I should clarify, though, it wasn’t every paycheck. It happened maybe three times. The issue now is I know she has shared her opinion to my other employee and he has recently said the same when I released the office early due to long 4th of July weekend. I thought it would be nice for everyone to leave early so they can beat traffic but don’t want them to worry that it was without pay. It’s new to me how things can easily get misunderstood.

      1. catsAreCool

        I wonder if she misunderstood you or if she was just trying to make you feel bad.

  9. Katie the Fed

    #4 – unless you’re the owner of the company, you weren’t really being generous with her. You were being generous with someone else’s money, and probably generously shifting her workload to other employees. Where I work that’s called timekeeping fraud and could get you fired and in a heap of legal trouble.

    You definitely seem to think you deserve praise and recognition for doing something that’s frankly 1) a terrible idea and 2) possibly illegal.

    If you’re the owner, that’s another story altogether. But it’s still a bad idea management-wise. Letting bad employee behavior fester almost never turns out well. You should have addressed the attendance issue directly and looked at other ways to help her financially if she was a good employee (allow overtime, etc).

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      There are other set ups. My budget for the division is “my” money that’s I’m responsible for returning results on. I can do anything I want with it (because, obviously, I’m not going to go off and buy myself a sports car). We’ve got informal policies for paying hourly people time they haven’t worked, including if the office closes early because of weather, or closes for the entire day.

      If I wanted to do what #4 did, that’s in my discretion. (You could argue that the reason it’s in my discretion is because I wouldn’t. :p)

      So, OP #4, here’s the thing, making sure your employee got full pay for the first week she didn’t clock enough hours? IMO, it’s okay to be generous that way like, the first time, if you accompany it with a sit down. I think it’s even okay to throw good performers some extra hours if they have occasional issues down the road. (Example, they run out of PTO and fall short one week a few hours because of Reasons.) But it’s not okay to do what you were doing because the path it leads to is the one you found yourself on.

      Managing is a pain in the ass. Do I really want to take time out of my day to babysit and counsel people who have trouble working their damn hours? I don’t. (And have gotten pretty good at delegating all that crap). People are such a time suck. Who wants to meet with someone three weeks in a row to tell them over again, you gotta work all your hours and THIS week, you are going to be paid only to reflect the hours you work? Nobody. But that’s the job. And when you get lazy about managing (we all get lazy) bad things happen next.

      1. Dutch Thunder

        And to add to that, you wouldn’t have to tell someone that every week indefinitely – you’d soon be looking at firing them because they seem unable to commit to their working hours in full. Not being at work a single full day for months is not acceptable behaviour, but if it occurs, the manager has to make it crystal clear that it cannot go on and is jeopardising their job security.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          Right.

          It’s less black and white when the person is a good performer otherwise and you have a need. If the problem person packs 100 teapots in her 6 hours vs 75 for everybody else in 8 and you’re having a hard time hiring for the Teapot Packer Position, that’s where the lazy management or the old Blind Eye temptation is the greatest.

          1. OfficePrincess

            That’s where I’m at with one person now. Packs circles around everyone else, but the “get your butt here on time” speech only takes hold for 6 weeks or so because drama lama reasons. Part of me wants to keep her since SO MUCH gets done, but when it’s a shift work position, showing up on time is a part of the deal. At least she’s only getting paid for hours worked, but I really don’t enjoy having to monitor clock in times.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

              I am old. I can tell you that someone with Drama Llama reason pattern will always have Drama Llama reasons and it will always bite you in the butt big time sooner or later.

              Sometimes you have to put up with that, and exhaust yourself, in the short term. You ask yourself, knowing this will never change and will most likely escalate, how long am I prepared to deal with this crap and then extricate as soon as possible. (Even hurting your production a bit short term.)

            2. Lindrine

              +1000 for Drama Llama. I now have an image of an outrageous llama in my head, complete with sparkly rhinestone sunglasses. Made my day.

              1. Snargulfuss

                This would be a great addition to the hypothetical (and hopefully at some point actual) AAM line of T-shirts, bumper stickers, and office artwork.

      2. cuppa

        Agreed 100%. I’m pretty flexible about extenuating circumstances, especially on one-time issues, but some people can’t work all their hours and I’m not prepared to reward that.
        I’ll also mention that drama llamas who can’t work their hours tend to be the most vocal about not having any money. Funny how that works. (Not referencing the situation in the letter after this one, as I didn’t find them to be a drama llama.)

    2. LBK

      Yeah, this is a horrible idea – it might seem generous from your end but consider how it looks to any of your other employees who might find out. This is someone so bad that you ended up firing her, but in the meantime you were rewarding that poor performance with extreme schedule flexibility and extra pay!? If I were someone working my full hours and delivering good work during that time, I’d be livid. I would be out the door as soon as I could get another job. Particularly if I also had a sob story about my personal issues but I’d decided to react to that by busting my ass to make the money I needed rather than preying on my manager’s empathy.

      1. Future Analyst

        Agreed. There was an awful lot of leeway given to an underperformer with attendance issues, and if I saw that as a coworker, I’d be beyond pissed, especially if I then needed to take on her extra work.

      2. Shannon

        Agreed. That would shoot my morale all the way from “I love my job” straight down to “Clearly, no one here gives a flock.” How much my productivity suffered would be dependent on how high my morale was to begin with, but, in a best case scenario, I could only see myself doing the bare minimum to get by while I put out resumes.

        1. ElCee

          This is happening in my office now, and this basically describes my attitude change to a T. I am looking to get out and this is the main reason.

    3. Ad Astra

      I suspect that paying employees for time they didn’t actually work is absolutely not ok when you work for the government, but might be something the manager can use her discretion on in some private industries. I’m fine with paying all the employees to leave early the night before a holiday or something, but you’re right that it’s bad management to pay an under-performing worker for time she missed because she was coming in late and leaving early.

      For hourly workers, money is one of the biggest motivators to show up on time and stay until the work is done. The manager eliminated that motivation by paying the employee for a full eight hours, and sent a bad message to her other employees.

    4. OP #4

      Katie the Fed, you’re right. The overtime idea is great, I’ll definitely look into new ways to help employees financially. Thank you.

  10. Rebecca

    #4 – I don’t know how many other members you have on your team, but I can guarantee you that they have not missed the fact that the employee you just left go was a poor performer, yet you gave her 3 raises and paid her for time not working. I am not a manager, but I really think you need to examine your management style.

  11. Juli G.

    #4, you may have done a huge disservice to that employee. If I’m asking for raises and receiving them, then I think that I’m performing appropriately, in no danger of being fired, and have no reason to alter my behavior.

    If she sued for wrongful termination and was able to spin another theory, your case for terminating due to poor performance is seriously undermined by your actions.

    1. BRR

      There’s probably no record though for being fired illegally. She’d have to show that is was based on discrimination which is pretty difficult to prove especially when it never happened.

      1. JenGray

        Just because there is no record doesn’t mean that she can’t sue. It happens all the time where people sue when they have no standing or think that a company has done then wrong when it hasn’t. It can be costly to companies to have to defend against frivolous lawsuits. She might just decide to try and sue because she is mad about being told that she was being paid for full days when she wasn’t working full days and depending on how the lawyer spins it- it could look like that the employee was actually working full days because that’s what she was paid for. I hope that company has really good documentation showing the performance problems in case she does sue. Not to completely defend the company here but from the letter it sounds like the LW was being a nice person & helping someone out. There are plenty of crappy companies and plenty of crappy employees out there and sometimes when you help someone out it comes back to bite you in the butt (or pocketbook, in this case).

        1. Natalie

          But she could sue even if they hadn’t given her raises. Anyone can file a lawsuit for any reason – I really doubt they’ve increased their liability here.

        2. fposte

          It doesn’t happen that often, though. Interestingly, one of the few pages that looked like it was going to offer numbers was actually measuring in-house counsel’s perception of risk and then stating their perception as actual suit percentages. Which I think is significant–we tend to treat perception as reality when it comes to likelihood of lawsuits.

          There were 4,000+ EEOC charges filed in my state (and you can’t sue without going through the EEOC). That’s out of over 6 million workers. That means the chance was roughly .06% that a worker was going to file an EEOC charge–which isn’t even the same as a lawsuit. That’s less than one-tenth of one percent.

          1. LBK

            Yeah – I think most people who threaten lawsuits rarely even take first steps to do so, and most of those that start investigating those steps probably give up once they realize it’s not as simple as calling up a hotline and getting a check for your settlement a week later.

          2. Natalie

            Ah, but the legal department would probably claim that there’s so few complaints because they do such a good job minimizing liability. Like Homer and the bear patrol.

            Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
            Homer: Oh, how does it work?
            Lisa: It doesn’t work… It’s just a stupid rock. But I don’t see any tigers around, do you?
            Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.

            1. fposte

              Undoubtedly some do! I really was quite fascinated to see a survey about counsel’s perception of the economy making people sue more get turned into a statistic about actual lawsuits, but I guess that’s just more of the mighty power of attorneys.

      2. Juli G.

        I understand but try reading the letter the other way –

        “Recently, I’ve had some issues with depression. My boss seemed very supportive and I’ve been able to slip out early on occasion (although my coworkers make comments that I have a hard time letting go) and even granted me three raises in a short period of time when he found out how thin things were stretched.

        All of the sudden yesterday, he calls me in and tells me I’m fired for poor performance, that I have a poor work ethic, and that to add insult to injury, I’ve been overpaid. NONE of this came up before today and I’m absolutely shocked. Although I never explicitly told him, he knew I was having issues with depression and I thought he would be more sensitive to that. Do I have any rights here?”

        I didn’t have to work very hard to make that a compelling case to a lawyer or even to make the employee look sympathetic.

        (And to be clear, I have no issue with firing her but it was a poor setup that OP should learn from).

        1. fposte

          Okay, so you’re arguing it would be an ADA case? Despite the fact that the employee never discussed her disability or invoked ADA?

          It might be a compelling case to a lawyer, but I doubt it would be one who worked on contingency, because it’s a loser. Of course, you can always find a lawyer willing to take your hourly money, but that’s not cheap; you have to be pretty committed to be willing to throw thousands away in hope of a result.

          1. Juli G.

            Let’s throw out the legal aspects. The way it was handled makes the employee feel terrible. I don’t like managers to take actions that leave employees confused and jobless. If you’re jobless, you need to understand why. Being told you’re a bad performer after getting three raises is confusing.

            1. fposte

              And I’m totally in agreement that the manager handled this badly. I’m just objecting to the notion that there’s a lawsuit in the making.

    2. Colette

      And it’s a disservice to your good employees, since it’s unlikely they received as many raises as this poor performer.

    3. Jen RO

      This might not apply in the US, but I’m in a country without at-will employment and HR in my company recommends two consecutive PIPs if you want to fire an employee who was just promoted/who just got a raise. The reasoning is that you obviously appreciated her work when you promoted/gave her a raise, so you have to work extra-hard to prove that she deserves to be fired and it’s not a personal vendetta.

    4. The Other Dawn

      “If I’m asking for raises and receiving them, then I think that I’m performing appropriately, in no danger of being fired, and have no reason to alter my behavior.”

      Exactly. Of course she’s upset. She thinks she’s doing great and has no reason to think otherwise.

    5. AnonAnalyst

      This is actually where I thought #4 was going after reading the first paragraph because I would also think my performance was meeting or exceeding standards if I kept getting raises, even if I had asked for them.

      As a side note: OP, you kept raising the employee’s pay because she complained she was short on money? This…isn’t really a great idea. It’s certainly worthwhile to re-examine someone’s pay rate to ensure it’s in line with the market for that position and with the value they are currently bringing to the organization, but it sounds like you kept paying this employee more simply because she indicated she needed more money while the value she was bringing to the organization was lower than that of your other employees. As others have pointed out, this is a real disservice to your good employees, and it’s certainly possible that some of them have noticed that this poor performer was being rewarded (with higher pay and more schedule flexibility) for her sub-par performance.

      1. OfficePrincess

        Definitely not a good idea. I can see offering up overtime to a strong performer who found herself in a tight spot moneywise, but giving raises to someone who can’t be bothered to work a full shift? I can’t see that ending anyway other than the poor performer being upset when attendance finally becomes an issue and the rest of the staff being resentful.

      2. MsM

        And as lots of people pointed out in the gas discussion yesterday, it’s possible the reason they’re having so much trouble with money is that they can’t manage it well, which giving them more is not going to solve. Especially if it’s happened more than once.

        1. some1

          This is why it’s not uncommon for lottery winners to end up broke: if you overspend when you have $50k, you will do the same thing with millions if you don’t change your behavior.

    6. some1

      Right. In some ways, I think people in all kinds of relationships unwittingly set themselves for this kind of thing when they keep letting someone keep taking advantage of them. When selfish and inconsiderate people finally get stood up to and have to face the consequences, they are going invalidate that because you let them treat you a certain way for so long.

    7. TootsNYC

      #4, you may have done a huge disservice to that employee. If I’m asking for raises and receiving them, then I think that I’m performing appropriately, in no danger of being fired, and have no reason to alter my behavior.

      This. I made the same point above, in a nested comment.

      Indulging people when they are behaving badly is NOT doing them any favors. You are training them to hold onto bad behavior. Think of it like a puppy* or a child* or an alcoholic*–corrective behavior helps them learn boundaries, expectations. It helps them excel.
      Indulging people who are behaving badly just “irons in the wrinkle”–making it even harder to get it back out! It hurts people, actually.

      You can create and enforce boundaries without being nasty or mean. But if you are thinking of “the good of the employee,” then giving them more money without demanding appropriate behavior is NOT in their long-term interest.

      *do NOT treat your employees as if they are your pet or your child, or alcoholic. Way too many managers use the “parenting” paradigm in interacting with their direct reports. But the principle is the same.

    8. OP #4

      Juli G., you’re right. And I hope she won’t sue, that’s why I even gave her two weeks’ severance pay. I’m probably not helping my own case here but I ended up paying her because she actually found personal information about me and attacked me on a personal level, which at some point, it became harmful/poisonous to everything I knew so in a way, I figured I’d just settle to get her out of my life. She demanded two-weeks’ severance pay and the way she did it was disrupting my business so I had to end it as quickly as I could.

      As for the wrongful termination, that is not possible. I have proof of poor work performance and attendance and my actions can be proven by intent.

      1. eplawyer

        So basically she blackmailed you into 2 weeks severance. Boy does she have a great moneymaking scheme. Get paid for hours not worked, then when fired for performance issues blackmail the boss into 2 weeks severance. Your only response to her personal attack should have been to call security to escort her out of the building immediately. Not reward her behavior.

        You don’t give a screaming toddler the candy they want. Because the toddler has now learned screaming for candy works.

  12. The Other Dawn

    RE: #4

    There are times when I let staff go home a little early, but pay them for a full day. But they have earned that by being conscientious workers and being here when they’re supposed to be here. Coming in late all the time? Working below standards? Nope, not giving them a perk with that kind of behavior. And especially not giving them THREE (!?!) raises.

    1. TootsNYC

      In my own situation, I believe they’re entitled to that payment, because I spoke for their time, and I consider it a contract; if I send them home, I’m cancelling, so I pay the financial penalty. Though, yes, if I weren’t that thrilled with the person’s work, I might make them sit around and do nothing instead of cutting them loose. Or I wouldn’t be as active about checking to see if I could send them home early.

  13. The Cosmic Avenger

    OP#3, sounds like the other department dodged a highly entitled bullet there! I hope you can straighten out the one complaining, but if someone thinks they’re entitled to know the names of all the applicants just because they’re applying to a job, I wonder if there’s much you can do to dispel their delusions. I worry how well they will protect confidential company or client information if they don’t get why their demand is problematic.

    1. Salatree

      Alison’s suggested response for #3 doesn’t sit quite right with me:

      “Some people prefer to keep it quiet when they’re applying for another position…we’d do the same for you if you asked us to.”

      This implies that the norm is to freely talk about who’s applying for what jobs, and that it’s only necessary to keep it quiet when the job candidate specifically asks that their candidacy not be shared with the other applicants. Shouldn’t hiring managers be keeping the list of applicants private by default – not simply at the request of the applicant?

      1. JenGray

        I agree that an applicant list should be shared with only those that need to know (i.e. hiring manager & manager of department position is for) and no one else. It is ones own prerogative if they want to discuss that they applied for this job or that job but other than that no one should know. I think the LW should 1) have a conversation with the complainer (if they haven’t already) where you explain how applicant lists are confidential and then 2) try to ignore it. The complainer is only harming themselves with what they are doing. I know that ignore it is easier said that done but others will appreciate you more if you stick to confidentiality.

      2. Future Analyst

        Right, but the person who was complaining about not knowing that the other was applying was vocal about applying himself, meaning that regardless of what HR would have done otherwise, he was telling people left and right about his application. I’m assuming HR wouldn’t have shared who was applying with anyone, and this guy outed himself, then got grouchy that HR didn’t out others.

        1. some1

          This. I don’t think it’s necessary to placate this person by pretending the coworker asked for confidentiality. Just say, “We don’t go out of our way to reveal which internal applicants are applying to other candidates. You chose to reveal that, and Steve didn’t.”

      3. TootsNYC

        I see your point. Maybe: “I didn’t discuss your candidacy with anyone else, either. The only reason anyone knew -you- were applying is because -you- told them. You may have not been concerned with keeping it quiet–and that’s your prerogative. But it’s not -my- place to make that decision for other candidates. Nor is it yours. Please don’t bring this up again.”

        (I would think that I shouldn’t talk about anybody’s intra-company job search, period.)

    2. Elder Dog

      Were those two the only applicants? Because if there were others, I’d tell the complainer that, and no, he’s not going to know who they were because it’s not his business, and drop the subject now, please.

      If I was annoyed enough I might even imply he wasn’t the next strongest candidate, and should stop complaining and put that energy toward working a bit more on his design skills or his diction or something.

      1. Original Poster

        These were the only two applicants that made it to the final round of interviews, but he doesn’t know that. Our company never discloses the names of applicants to various positions, but this person did think they were entitled to that information for some reason. I think the commenters here are correct that this person lacks a certain level of professionalism by assuming he deserves otherwise confidential information. Something for me to work on with him going forward!

  14. Sadsack

    #1, I think my answer to any questions about your manager’s wedding plans would be, “I don’t know. He must make his plans at home, because he doesn’t really share details at the office. So, about that thing you requested…”

  15. Frances

    OP #1 – I see white lies as something that greases the wheels of social interaction. However, what your boss did was so unnecessary and over the top it just seems bizarre to most people. It also puts you in an awkward position which is doubly uncool. Perhaps he has a bit of antisocial personality disorder or something. Any which way I would heed Allison’s cautionary note about him. All I would be thinking is “What else is he lying about and to whom?” Does he have any moral compass? I’d be really wary about him.

    1. simonthegrey

      Yeah, to me a white lie might be OP’s boss saying he was going golfing that weekend when really he was going to sit around in his shorts playing Saints Row on his console. It would still be a silly thing to lie about, but harmless. This is beyond weird.

    2. catsAreCool

      Yeah, the boss makes me nervous too. It’s one thing to say something nice that you don’t really mean, like “I like your tie”, but this is just way over the line of normal behavior, and I’d be worried about what else he might do.

  16. Mickey Q

    I was unfortunately married to someone who lied about everything all day every day. Even things as mundane as what did you have for breakfast. Because you people are normal you cannot fathom how someone could lie like that and assume there must be another explanation. The probable reality is that this guy is a psychopath. If he will lie about something like that you can probably assume he is lying about anything and everything. Tread carefully and don’t believe a word he says. Get away as soon as you possibly can. Otherwise you will be caught up in maintaining his lies for him and that can threaten your job.

    1. Academic Librarian

      I had a lying employee. I inherited her. I caught her in two weirdly nonsensical lies (boxes were to be shipped weren’t, materials said to have been received that day from the mailroom-were actually sitting in the workroom for a year) my first two weeks on the job. Brought these documented incidences to my supervisor. Supervisor said yes, we have had reports of this behavior from the previous department manager but it was never about a big thing and she was a good worker and always got good performance evals. Fast forward- yes she lied about big things but was not caught. I am still cleaning up the messes a year after she left. (resigned the day she was being let go, the PIP was 10 months long) Seriously not a day goes by when something she lied about bites me on the a–. Often it is some bit of information about teapot maintenance that turns out to be utter bulls-t.

      1. OriginalYup

        There was a post here a while ago about an employee caught in a similar lie — said they’d mailed an important document when they hadn’t — and there was a fascinating discussion in the comments about why people do stuff like that. The one theory that stuck with me is that sometimes otherwise good employees work in terrible environments where they take on bad habits to survive (e.g. withholding info from a rageaholic boss who screams at you for things that aren’t your fault) and then take those bad habits to other workplaces. It was an interesting theory on why someone who is otherwise pretty good at their job would continually do something so self-destructive.

        1. TootsNYC

          Or, they learn to lie protectively in childhood.

          I distinctly remembering my mother teaching me that it was more important to tell the truth; that if I owned up to my misdeed, she wouldn’t be nearly as upset as if I had lied in order to keep from getting in trouble.

          It was huge. It greatly influenced me as a parent–to never be so angry and so punitive that my child would rather live with the anxiety that comes with telling a lie, or coping with the disaster they’re lying about. My goal is that they will never be so motivated to hide their mistake or misdeed, or the crisis not of their making, that they deprive themselves of the assets they need to cope with it, or to change it.

          But I know people for whom lying was a way to keep from getting in trouble as a kid.

          1. Anon for this comment

            I’ll be honest (ha), this is something I struggle with. I come from an abusive family, where lying was something I learned to do to protect myself. Add that to my first boss also being abusive in a very similar way (it’s hard to recognize that when it’s your normal), and reflexive lies to protect myself are habit. I’m working really, really hard to counteract that habit, including lots of therapy, but I still sometimes slip up. Mostly now I recognize I slip up right after I do, and can correct myself immediately (“oh, actually, I’m mistaken, I haven’t mailed that package yet” right after I say “yes of course I’ve mailed that package” reflexively), but I’m not 100% perfect yet.

            But even as someone who *does* struggle with reflexive lying, I can’t imagine a situation where I would lie in the manner the boss in #1 has lied, let alone carry it through to the extent he has. That’s not really a protective kind of lie.

            1. Elizabeth West

              Being aware of it and more importantly, aware of WHY you do it is a huge step. Kudos to you for working on it. :) Also hugs because abusive family, rawr.

              I wonder if he did it because he was getting caught up in a conversation where the clients were all expanding on grand, exciting personal stuff and just went with the flow. The letter said “in an attempt to build rapport.” I’ve been tempted to exaggerate when in a conversation where I feel everybody else is one-upping me. Of course I don’t do that, but I can see how someone would.

            2. simonthegrey

              I didn’t come from an abusive family, but I learned early on to lie to avoid disappointing my parents. Yes, I have friends I eat lunch with at school! Yes, I did try out for the play! Yes, I scored well on that math test! I still have a tendency to “gloss over” unpleasant things rather than disappoint people. I don’t lie about anything big, but about whether I ate breakfast and how close I am to finishing X project? I fudge those sometimes. I have gotten better, but time and better coping mechanisms are the only way to do so.

          2. Anon for this

            I had a parent who paid some lip service to this idea (“you won’t be in trouble if you tell me, only if you don’t”), but didn’t put it in practice. In practice, as an example situation: If I found out in February that my grades were slipping in math, and I told him, I’d be in trouble in February and I’d be in trouble again in June when final grades came out, if I hadn’t managed to salvage it. If I didn’t tell him in February, I’d only get in trouble once, in June–and there was a small chance I could salvage it and not get in trouble at all. I developed a tendency to hide problems until I was 110% sure I couldn’t fix them in secret.

            I also once convinced him I hadn’t gotten a report card at all because he hadn’t paid my instructional materials fee. He never paid this fee without a ton of hassle, and I was always being dunned by the school for it, so he believed me. I’m pretty sure that one has never been exposed.

      2. some1

        That’s not “nonsensical”, imo. It makes perfect sense why someone would lie to their boss to cover up not doing their job – they don’t want to get in trouble. It’s not moral, kind, or even very smart, certainly, but it makes sense why someone would lie about that vs lie about being engaged.

        1. TootsNYC

          That’s the start of lying, for children.

          Well, that, and pretending, but they’re different kinds.

    2. Cleopatra Jones

      I don’t think all chronic liars are psychopaths/sociopaths. PP & SPs engage in a whole list of other bad behaviors and generally lack remorse for their bad behavior.

      I’ve known some chronic liars who didn’t have ill-intentions, they either believed their own lies because in their minds this is the thing that really happened, they were seeking some kind of attention, or they were just prone to exaggeration because they found it humorous or more interesting than their real life.

      Definitely, it frustrates the rest of us who wouldn’t lie over something so crazy as being engaged but it doesn’t automatically make the person a psychopath or sociopath.

      1. Manders

        Yes, I think attention is a big reason why people like. A lot of the liars I’ve known have made up very elaborate stories about dramatic things happening to them–good things like a proposal, or bad things like a painful illness.

        If you’re someone who doesn’t like attention, or only likes getting attention when you feel like you’ve earned it, it’s hard to understand why someone would lie like that. I can’t wrap my own head around it, but I’ve seen it enough times that I suppose those liars must be getting something out of it.

    3. amaranth16

      Let’s not armchair diagnose, please. Compulsive lying is not by itself indicative of psychopathy. Many psychopaths do lie a lot, but so do lots of people (with and without various forms of mental illnesses) who aren’t psychopaths. In this case, the lie doesn’t appear to produce any gain for the person telling it, which is very contradictory to the patterns in psychopathy, in which one lies in order to manipulate situations for one’s own benefit.

      1. HWL

        Original poster to #1 here – I appreciate everyone’s insight.
        My boss is a great guy who is a lot of fun, very gregarious and always has a story to tell. He’s good at his job and has been successful in his career. That is why this came totally from left field. He definitely is not engaged, he recounted the meeting to me and told me he said it because he saw an opening about what he was doing in that area over the weekend, (why yes, I am doing something special while I’m here, I’m getting engaged!) and saw it as having a laugh. It could have ended there, it was the email that raised flags.

        1. Isben Takes Tea

          Of course we can’t tell if this is a abnormal “whoops I’m in too deep!” incident, but if it is symptomatic of a larger pattern, his personality as you described it doesn’t preclude him from being a serial liar. The ease at which he seems to have escalated his story would make me raise an eyebrow about him “always having a story to tell.”

        2. Myrin

          This really doesn’t get less bizarre, I have to say.

          Am I understanding this correctly – his reason for making up an engagement was to show how exciting and special the clients’ area is? Couldn’t he just have said “It’s so very nice here!” or something to that extent?

          I’m really sorry you are in such a weird situation right now, OP. What an unnecessary source of stress!

      2. Anon at the Moment

        I used to lie quite frequently when I was younger (child/teen), as a result of self-consciousness. I had this mindset that there was a ‘right’ answer to things, and I would try to hit it, sometimes lying (or deceiving in the process).

        If people made assumptions about me, I often didn’t correct them, and, as a result, had to maintain the facade to my dentist that I was going to the same college his daughter did, and the people I babysat that I was majoring in English, and many of my classmates that I liked certain TV shows I’d never seen.

        Although I wouldn’t call this attention-seeking. It was more like attention-dissuading. I just wanted to seem Totally Normal, not worth commenting on, or making the center of attention, or probing deeper.

    4. Anna

      I’m sorry your experience was so awful, but it’s kind of a leap from “lied about this weird thing” to “is a psychopath.” The only thing the OP can do is keep an eye out for other indications of weird behavior, but it doesn’t help the situation to ask her to diagnose a severe mental illness.

  17. LBK

    #3 – I’m mostly confused why the employee thinks he’d be entitled to this information and/or what difference it makes to him. Would he have not applied if he knew the coworker was also applying? Would he have tried to sabotage him somehow? I can only come up with nefarious explanations for why you’d want to know who else was in the running.

    1. MsM

      Eh, I don’t think it’s necessarily nefarious. I can see bowing out if you know you’re way less qualified than the other applicant(s), or if their skills are so different from yours that it causes you to wonder whether you missed something about what the position is going to entail. And while it might not be the most harmonious approach, if I knew I had a strength the other candidate(s) didn’t, I might try to play that up a little bit more in interviews than I normally would.

      Still not information you’re entitled to, though.

      1. Original Poster

        I don’t think it was nefarious either. Both candidates were equally qualified for the role, but this person generally likes to know quite a bit about what’s going on in the company. I think he had shared the fact that he was applying, not thinking anyone else in the company (much less the same department!) was also going for the role. Perhaps he now thinks that he pointed out the opening to his colleague by advertising his application?

        I’ll also add, during his interview he asked about who else was applying for the job – it was a big red flag for the interviewer who was rubbed the wrong way by the question. I think the bigger problem is lack of business tact.

    2. OriginalYup

      I wondered if it was simple embarrassment. Vocal applicant was loud and proud about applying for the job, maybe said some indiscreet things in front of the quiet applicant that he now regrets (“I’m a shoo-in for the job, they love me over there! First thing I’m going to do is fire X and fix that project they ruined!”), and is subsequently super embarrassed and irrationally taking it out on the OP.

      1. some1

        Yeah, I think he is embarrassed, defensive and/or naive about how this works and his emotions aren’t really jiving with logic right now. He didn’t get (or mistakenly feel like he “lost”) something he wanted and his defenses are telling him it could have or would have gone down differently if he knew he was up against that coworker.

      2. hbc

        That’s my guess as well. At the very least, he wouldn’t have been blabbing about it so freely if he thought someone in the room was up for the role too, and it never occurred to him that someone else would keep it secret. Anger directed…somewhere feels better than embarrassment directed inward.

  18. NicoleK

    OP #1. Are you starting to question the judgment, integrity, and professionalism of your boss? If those characteristics are important to you, you may find it difficult to work with him or maintain respect your boss.

  19. JenGray

    #5- I have to say that it surprises me that no one followed up with him on the Monday about his time if he had been consistently turning in his time. Yes, I know that we are all adults and so responsible for ourselves but pay falls into a little bit of a different category to me. Everyone wants to get paid so I would think that if someone knows the rules they will make sure their time is turned in to get paid. I also think that everyone can make one time mistakes too. One time I entered my timesheet into the system we use but I forgot to submit it- therefore our payroll processor could see it but not do anything with it because it wasn’t submitted.

    1. ConstructionHR

      They probably didn’t follow up with him because they didn’t think they still had to pay him on Friday. Going forward, maybe at “Read Receipt” or a follow-up email from the OP to payroll.

      1. TootsNYC

        I follow up with missing time cards because a late time card creates a pain in the neck for me. So insisting that he gets paid might provide them with incentive to follow up with missing time cards.

        1. OfficePrincess

          Yup. I don’t like hounding people for things I need, especially if it’s mainly for their benefit. But if hounding them will prevent a massive headache for me later, I will hound away.

        2. Elder Dog

          They’re probably thinking not getting paid on time will provide him with incentive to get his time card in on time. The employers are wrong under the law, but the thinking is understandable.

    2. Witty Nickname

      Especially since he’s in CA. CA is very strict about this – when I returned from Maternity Leave and the HR person who handled leaves of absence forgot to code my return into the payroll system, and I didn’t get my first paycheck (via direct deposit), they cut a physical check and sent it overnight to me so I got it over the weekend at home. Since I was on leave when they paid out our annual bonus, I was also supposed to get that with my first check. They made me wait until the next pay period for that, but they were quick with the paycheck (and in a couple instances a few years prior, when pay roll was still in the same office I’m in, when they messed up my pay, they loaded a debit card for me with the missing funds the same day).

      Our payroll office is in another state now, and they still know that you don’t mess with people’s pay in CA.

  20. Kelly White

    OP#4:
    “Relatedly, if I let the staff go early because it’s a long holiday and I clocked them out at 5:30 p.m. (the end of a full day), is it okay to tell them or just let them figure it out when they see the payment stubs/paycheck?”

    I know when I was hourly, I would have appreciated being told – just so I wouldn’t have to worry about it until my next paycheck.

    1. The Other Dawn

      If I let my people go I always make sure to tell them to put for a full day (they take care of their own timesheets). I’d hate for them to think I’m giving them the “gift” of letting them leave early…and then shorting their paycheck.

    2. TootsNYC

      When I am cutting people loose but still planning on paying them, I say it. I think it’s really rude not to clarify. People make spending decisions. And if I’m not going to pay them for that time, then I want to make sure they know.

      Telling them also has a totally selfish purpose: it gets me my money’s worth.
      I am paying them for that time in order to create loyalty in them. The uncertainty of not knowing whether they’ll be paid undermines that.

      1. catsAreCool

        I have found over the years that it’s almost odd how often doing the right thing is also the advantageous thing in the long run.

  21. Mockingjay

    #1: “In an effort to build rapport, he told them he was planning to propose to his girlfriend over the weekend.”

    This sounds like the plot of a paperback romance; in which the womanizing Hero has the hapless ingénue girl pose as his fiancée, to show the conservative geezer client that he is ‘stable’ and worthy of the business deal. (Of course, Hero falls in love with hapless Heroine and all live happily…)

    Seriously, though, you have to wonder what other lies he has fed clients. Are the clients satisfied with the work he and the company provides? If not, the OP has a bigger issue to contend with. I see this situation as a red flag. OP, be cautious.

  22. Rae

    #1 Have you actually address this with him? You state he is not engaged but perhaps has he had a “soft” engagement for family politics reasons? My FI and I agreed to marry (and even set a date) in June but he didn’t propose with a ring (and our family didn’t know) until October because:
    June-his sister’s 1st annv. she is extremely jealous type and would of gone nuts
    July/Aug/Sept- important family birthdays between he and I there were 5-8 each month!

    June-September we were just as engaged as we ever would be–in fact we’d even met with clergy and set a date–but except for one of my closest friends and said clergy no one knew. We’ve been married 2 years and it’s only come up once how “odd” it was that we were able to announce the wedding date and venue only a couple of days after we got officially engaged.

    So just ask him before assuming he’s a liar. If he turns out to be, then be cautious and stay far away…if not there may be a very practical reason he did what he did, believe me it’s no fun to have to hide an engagement for stupid reasons.

    1. some1

      I wondered about this, too, but it seems odd that you wouldn’t explain that. I remember a coworker telling me that his wife was pregnant and in the next breath that they were keeping on the DL in the family because their sister-in-law was pregnant and they didn’t want to steal her thunder.

      1. Rae

        He may not have realized it would get out that way…or that people would even care. When we did finally get engaged my hubs told his good friends through skype, but we were a month away from being married when we went kayaking with one of his other friends who didn’t even know we were serious. We are both private people..and didn’t FB announce. That said, through the whole process several of his nosier co-workers knew far more information than our own friends and family because they asked and had conversations about it.

        My opinion is that FB has really messed with social standards when it comes to announcing things. If you don’t you’re seen as hiding…when 15 years ago only the very wealthy would of announced (via the newspaper). Getting married isn’t everyone’s business and I can understand not telling people close as they may expect an invitation…my husband just told people who were invited. His co-workers were not but he said often it was “family only” so they got the point. Still he felt a bit bad since they really invested themselves in the topics. Avoiding that would of been nice.

        And about pregnancies…..people can’t keep secrets. Seriously. As soon as you tell one person (even confidentially) word spreads. It’s just human nature.

    2. Decimus

      This is possible but then I wonder why he’d mention it to co-workers. My wife and I held our engagement back for about six months but the only people we told were the couple who introduced us (and who would be our best man/matron of honor). I certainly didn’t tell my co-workers. I only told them when I gave my notice – getting married involved moving quite a distance on my part. And my wife didn’t tell HER coworkers until after we married when she added me to her insurance!

      1. Rae

        I told some of my co-workers and not others. Some of my best acquaintances are from a different department so they all knew before most of my direct c0-workers. (I never worked for said department)

        Still my point is ask before you assume it’s a convoluted lie. I’ve survived alot in my life but the whole “what are you doing for a wedding” with peoples thoughts, self-invitations, opinions and general nonsense was terrible…and I kept it VERY low key. I would never choose to go through it again…and would recommend eloping to anyone thinking of marriage these days. It’s a horrible, horrible industry.

  23. E

    My first thought when reading #1 is that he did propose but it went badly. Now he’s in a tough spot and thought it’d be easier to keep up the charade than explain everything, particularly because the client was so excited to hear about his plans to propose.

  24. Student

    I find the parallels between #4 and yesterday’s letter about the co-worker without gas money to be interesting. It seems like the comments section has a very different take on #4 compared to yesterday’s letter, and I don’t quite understand why. Maybe it’s due to the different perspectives they were written from (management vs. co-worker).

    1. Bend & Snap

      Really? There’s nothing to indicate that the gas guy from yesterday was a low performer; today’s letter clearly states that the employee was a low performer.

    2. Nina

      For one thing, OP#4 says that this coworker is pretty awful: starting drama, low work ethic, poor performance, etc. The guy from yesterday’s letter is said to be an amazing employee, but he’s constantly taking time off because he doesn’t have enough gas money to get him back and forth 5 days a week.

    3. fposte

      I’m with Bend & Snap–I see some important differences. Yesterday, we had a good performer struggling with money but who didn’t ask his boss for financial leeway or anything beyond earned PTO; today we have a poor performer who wanted her boss to mitigate her financial problems. Yesterday’s boss didn’t even know; today’s boss was enmeshed with the situation to the point of making some bad moves that made the problem worse, as people have noted. That doesn’t mean either employee’s need for money wasn’t legitimate. But even yesterday a lot of us were saying a legitimate need for money doesn’t automatically translate to a boss’s obligation to fill the gap.

      I don’t think you’re wrong that a sympathetic narrative about a widower with kids, from a co-worker who likes the guy, is going to read differently than a boss’s story about an unpleasant short-working employee. But I think the differences go deeper than just the narrative approach.

    4. TootsNYC

      Also, yesterday’s “can’t afford gas” guy wasn’t asking for (or getting) raises because “he needs the money.” In fact, he was keeping his financial situation close to his vest; the coworker only knows because she’s a friend, and she asked.

      Today’s low performer made her financial needs well known to her boss.

    5. LBK

      I think it’s different for a couple reasons:

      1) The employee in this letter is a poor performer vs. yesterday’s was a high performer. Giving a high performer a raise to cover their expenses is a business decision – if it takes a few thousand dollars to retain the employee, that might be worth it based on the quality of their work and/or the difficulty and cost of replacing them. Giving a low performer a raise to cover their expenses does nothing for the company; it solely benefits that employee.

      2) The OP in today’s letter took this step on her own, without even telling the employee (!). In yesterday’s case, there’s some sympathy to be gained from the employee’s situation (trying to take care of two kids as a single dad). That’s not to say there aren’t some dire straits impacting the employee in this situation, but the OP doesn’t even seem to know – she just knows money is tight and decided without prompting from the employee to bump up her pay.

    6. Ad Astra

      As you point out, the perspectives of the letter writers are also different: Yesterday, a coworker was asking how she could help. Today, a manager is asking if her actions were warranted.

      The poor performer vs. good performer difference that some people are pointing out is relevant, since there’s a better business case for helping a high performer who’s fallen on hard times, and yesterday’s employee had a particularly sympathetic story that naturally makes people want to help.

      Really, though, the situations are totally different. The only thing these two employees have in common is that they both are short on cash.

  25. grasshopper

    #4, you’re sending a lot of mixed messages. If you’re underpaying workers, then a raise is justified. If there are COL increases or seniority or performance-based reasons, then a raise is justified. A raise is not justified “because she is short on money.” The performance issues should have been addressed before she was fired, but instead you gave the person a reward by giving her THREE raises. That is a reward instead of a correction. Also, If you only told her about the over-payment when she was terminated, then I could see how she would be upset. She just lost her job but you want her to feel grateful for your generosity? Telling her about the over-payment at the time when you were discussing her attendance would have been the appropriate time. You don’t mention this in your letter, but I suspect that you never addressed her performance issues before the termination.

    1. LBK

      Even if the performance issues were being addressed, I’d find it hard to take those conversations seriously if you followed them up with giving me more money.

  26. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees

    Fact: I “lied” about being engaged when I was interviewing for my current job! It seemed silly but my living arrangements came up (I was in the process of moving to the area) and I said “my fiance” instead of “my boyfriend” because I was afraid I’d be violating some moral code of this religious institution by cohabitating and fiance sounded more legit. Turns out they’re not that conservative. Of course I’m able to put lied in quotes because we were actually making serious wedding plans at the time even though most people didn’t consider us officially engaged and I’m not Morello from OITNB sharing elaborate fictional plans with everyone.

    1. simonthegrey

      I was working with high school students while my then boyfriend, now husband had moved in together. No question about a morality clause (they were high school age but taking a college class) but they asked one time about weekend plans. My boyfriend’s mother and I had plans to go to a thing out of town – and my boyfriend and I were talking marriage, but were not engaged – but I referred to his mom as my future mother-in-law because that was how I saw her and less convoluted than “my boyfriend’s mom” which just sounded weird. Those kids were excited that I was engaged!!! They wanted to know all about it!!! Wanted to know if they could come to the wedding!!! It was hard having to explain that it was a soft engagement and that we weren’t thinking about walking down the aisle for at least another year (I could tell a few of them wondered why I was waiting since I wasn’t getting any younger, lol).

      1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees

        I’ve always had a big thing for rings and usually wear a lot of them, which was a cultural difference I didn’t expect when I taught in South Korea, where all rings were taken as a sign of engagement/serious coupledom. My first day teaching one of the kids shrieked “You have five boyfriends??” and I had to calm them down and admitted to having one thinking that would placate them and get them to move away from the topic (I don’t know kids very well). Now, this is the same guy who is my pseudo-fiance now but at the time we hadn’t even discussed marriage but oh boy did those really young kids want to discuss it! My default answer to “when are you getting married?” became “after I move back to America” which, technically, isn’t a lie since I never told them how long after I moved back it would be happening!

    2. Today's Satan

      My boyfriend tells all of his clients that I’m his wife. We’ve lived together for 12 years, so we may as well be married. But we’re not, because I don’t want to be. So it irks me that he tells them he’s married. (He says it’s because “wife” is shorter and easier to say than “girlfriend”, and because we live in the Bible Belt, he doesn’t want anyone to not hire him because he’s “living in sin”. ::snerk::)

  27. Ed

    For #5, if I had my employees email their work hours, I would probably setup a separate mailbox with an auto-respond message. They could keep that message as proof their email had been received in time. If they get no response, they could follow-up during business hours the next day to see if their email was received. Plus, if the payroll person is out sick or quits, someone else can start monitoring that mailbox with no disruption to payroll.

    Also, if you have the original email, you can stick the header into one of those free analyzers online (Google “email header analyzer”) and it will show you the transit history of the email, including if there was a long delay on any step. Of, course you need the original email (and not a forwarded copy) which you probably don’t have but your company could easily analyze the header to see when you sent it. I do this all the time when a user at my company says they got a delayed email and wants to know if it’s our fault of the sender’s email server. The key is to make sure the recipient sends you the email “as an attachment” and doesn’t just forward it because you won’t get the original header.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      OMG. I just read this and the craziest part of it is how many people are seriously entertaining the idea that that guy isn’t married.

      1. CaliCali

        The one explanation that made sense was that the guy is in a country like India (she says he’s abroad), where large, extravagant engagement parties occur and can look similar to a wedding. Not that it really matters, if you think about it…

      2. LBK

        Further down, the OP says he confessed that he’s engaged (the pictures were of their extremely elaborate engagement party that she mistook for a wedding).

        Holy hell, though, what a bizarre chain of events.

        1. fposte

          And several people point out reasonably that the guy has lied about it being something other than a wedding twice, so it’s quite possible it is really a wedding and not an engagement party.

          Either way, she dumped him and is much better off for it.

    2. Creag an Tuire

      :: blinks ::
      Y’know, I used to wonder who kept falling for those ‘Nigerian Prince’ scams…

      1. The IT Manager

        #1 Amazing thread, thanks for sharing it.

        #2 Falling for an internet scam is very different that wanting to believe that someone you love is not lying to you.

        Fun fact: The Nigerian scam email is grammatically terrible and obviously fake to very quickly weed out the skeptical people and only keep the incredibly gullible people on the hook since phase 2 involves a lot of effort on the part of the scammer. I think I learned that from Freakonomics or maybe the RadioLab or Planet Money podcast.

    3. Lulubell

      I had the same exact thought! But I couldn’t remember where I read it. Was hoping someone else would mention it in the comments section!

  28. Ann

    Personal experience would prompt me to take a closer look at this guy. We had a woman in our office who was embezzling money and she told lies just like this all the time. Things that she had no reason to lie about other than to evoke sympathy and garner trust.

  29. Sue Wilson

    I really wish we knew how you know he was lying. Like did he tell you outright that he’s lying to build rapport or are you making some inferences (which aren’t necessarily bad or unreasonable, but they also aren’t dispositive).

  30. That Marketing Chick

    #1 I’ve known a couple of compulsive liars in my time, both personally and professionally – they lie about things that don’t matter, as well as things that do matter. In my personal life, I had to cut off my relationship with that person because it was just. too. weird. In my professional life, there was finally a mutual agreement for the company and the employee to go their separate ways.
    Steer clear as much as possible, and don’t allow your boss to suck you into the lies.

  31. Haute.pepper

    #5- In California the labor law on this issue is very clear. If you are not paid on time, the company is obligated to pay you for a full 8 hours for every day your check is late. If they make you wait two weeks to get paid, they owe you 14 full days of pay. You can access the specific labor code very easily on line to show hr and if you report it to the labor board, they will enforce it.

  32. Living in the Sun Shine Law State

    #1; The best course of action with is to not say anything and stay out of it all; tell the client I am not privy to the wedding plans but you will pass along the their interest to your boss. Then just let him know the client would like an update of your engagement plans; then the ball is in his court. Follow the good old 227 saying “my name is Bennett and I’m not in it.”

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