our employee lied about having a sick child

A reader writes:

I’ve worked for a company for a little over 10 years. “Lysa” started soon after me. We work in a semi-small and close department, and about a year after she started she ran into a streak of bad luck. Her husband asked for a divorce and she found out her young daughter had cancer. The children’s hospital was an almost two-hour drive, so she was in the car a lot. She was tired and as a department we came together to help. People would bring her lunch and coffee and everyone pooled money and bought her a gas card.

Her daughter’s health improved, and she met a new boyfriend. She was always gushing about him, showing everyone pictures and having loud phone conversations. It became worse when he proposed because any conversation with her was about her wedding in Italy and how this weekend she was flying to Italy to check on the wedding venue and next weekend was a trip to New York for the dress fitting. (Her fiance was wealthy and was paying for everything.)

A group of coworkers decided to throw a bridal shower at the office and invite her friends and family as well. So one lunch, they headed to her mother’s house (who one of them knew) to invite her to the bridal shower. The mother’s response: “What are you talking about? She doesn’t even have a boyfriend.”

Lysa lied … about all of it. Her daughter was never sick. She was never married. She never met the rich man of her dreams, but she told us that. The long phone conversations were her talking to herself, not connected to anything (we checked the phone log). We believe the flowers and gifts she sent to herself.

When she was confronted, she said her mother doesn’t like him and doesn’t acknowledge his existence. It was the same with the daughter’s illness. She pretended it was real but it didn’t fit. She had already told us that her mother had gone with her to Italy to check out the venue and was excited. And during her daughter’s illness, she talked about how her mother was so helpful and supportive.

We reported it to management. Since it didn’t affect the business, they said there wasn’t anything they could do, but now we have a department with an outcast. Even management doesn’t believe her. When her daughter was in an accident, they asked her to bring in the police report to excuse the absence when before they would have just believed it. How should our company have handled this?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 326 comments… read them below }

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Right? Was she going to . . . kill him off in a “plane crash” or something to finally get out of all this?

      1. SuperBB*

        I know someone whose co-worker did this same thing! She had also met a rich man, was going to fly them all to a destination wedding, sent herself flowers and gifts, and then shortly before the “wedding” he died in a small plane crash.

        1. fposte*

          There used to be a whole LiveJournal page devoted to documenting “pseuicides,” too, posters who tragically died (usually documented by a deeply moved friend who sounded just like them and st-st-st-stuttertyped with emotion).

          1. ThatGirl*

            There is/was (mostly was) a community of commenters on The AVClub, back in its heyday, and we had a much-loved, often-depressed commenter who met his wife in the comment section, they got married, we all loved her too, and then he died suddenly under tragic, vague circumstances. We all mourned him and said sweet supportive things to her and did our best to rally around her.

            And then we found out it was all a lie, that some random guy had made “her” up and offed “himself” and while there was *someone* out there behind it, his name was not the real-life one he’d given us.

            1. Crivens!*

              I’m always mad that the removed obit meant removing the obit of a real commenter who actually died.

              Similar things happened TWICE on the offshoots of The AV Club.

              1. ThatGirl*

                Yeah, that part sucked because the other commenter actually was real and actually did die and she deserved better.

            2. Funbud*

              The AV Club was a lot of fun back in the early days. I remember they answered a question about an obscure TV program that had been rattling around in my brain for years.

              1. EC*

                I used to get so many good book and movie recommendations in the old AV Club comments section. Its was such a gem.

            3. mrs__peel*

              Oh, hey, friend! (waves)

              I was also involved in this, and it was by far the most bizarre thing I’ve ever experienced. And he kept it up over so many years! I’ve never heard of another instance of catfishing that went on for that long with no financial motives.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Wow… memories…

            Seems like doing that sort of thing would be much easier online than in your actual workplace. Eesh.

          3. EvilQueenRegina*

            Remember the guy who was supposedly last seen running into the Twin Towers to help, and then someone queried why he was never on any memorials? That was the one that kicked that whole thing off.

        1. quill*

          Or expulsion. Had a… can I call him a classmate if he wasn’t actually registered in the same class as me in college, he just… showed up? He was also a chronic liar and he was actually registered for an entirely different course of study.

          1. Jen with one n*

            I had one of these, too – an acquaintance in high school who used to try to romance? girls by telling them a sad tale of his girlfriend who died in a car accident. And he was in the car. And she was decapitated. And she was pregnant with his child. And, and, and…

            (Every girl he told the story too got additional sad details – I’m not sure where it went after the lost pregnancy. I’m also not sure how he got my number to call me at home and tell me all of this.)

            I’ve often wondered what happened to him, but at best I can hope he got some help.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Someone joined an online group I’m in quite a few years ago, a guy who claimed to have been hurt by a rack of servers that fell on him. Then he had to have surgery, was in the hospital for a long time, blah blah. He would log on and speak as someone else, like a nurse or his mother, when he was supposed to be in recovery, etc. For a while, it actually seemed pretty real. But soon, the details got more and more outlandish and just weren’t adding up.

              One of our long-time members (who had grown suspicious) lived near the actual hospital he told us he was in and publicly offered to visit and help him out in any capacity he could. *poof!* Server Guy vanished like a dandelion on the wind. Apparently, it was all fake, every bit of it.

              Once you create an account on this site, it’s pretty much there forever, so every year his screen name appears in the birthday list. When I see it, I always wonder if he’ll ever try to come back. I don’t know if he’s blocked/banned but we still have quite a few people who would remember that.

            2. quill*

              If you had a last name that meant you were pretty phonebook-searchable, he probably got it there, but yeah. Hope he’s doing better now.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s a good thing that people cannot actually direct meteor impacts using the sheer power of their desperation to get out of a complicated web of lies.

      3. Yakima*

        I had a coworker who did something similar, except it was obviously a lie from the very start. She claimed her husband was a professional athlete and made the mistake of adding a picture of them together on Facebook. Later one coworker ran into this guy at a club, where he was working as a bartender. Asked about our coworker and he immediately said “I don’t know her” in a way that *clearly* meant he knew her, but wished he didn’t. Anyways a few months go by and she keeps up the lie that she is married to this “professional athlete,” although she stopped name dropping him after people kept loudly arranging nights out at the club he worked at.

        Then the team (she claimed) he played for made it to the championship. She made a huge deal of requesting time off to go and our manager approved it and asked her to take lots of pictures. Amazing. The team wins the championship. She returned to work without any pictures because her phone broke. So we ask if she will bring in the championship ring he husband will definitely have because he was definitely a professional athlete on that team. She agreed and then quit without notice just before the ring ceremony happened. And she blocked us all on social media (I don’t blame her, some of this crossed a line).

        This was an incredibly toxic work environment and our manager really should have put a stop to this, but in retrospect it’s one of my favorite stories. It’s just such an absurd lie to tell! She was a serious compulsive liar/ one upper/ blatant racist that it was kind of hard not to revel in her mess.

          1. Yelm*

            They’re not thinking about an end game; it’s a lack of self-concept and a kind of desperation.

        1. Mannequin*

          My husband works with a guy (forklift driver in a warehouse) who claims to have learned karate from Bruce Lee (younger than me and I was 6 when Lee died), trained with Mike Tyson, been a pro soccer player AND coached the NORTH Korean women’s Olympic soccer team (LOL nope), seen a real live mermaid, and soooo much more.
          Nobody believes him and nobody likes him, and not just because he is a pathological liar- he is the worst employee there (should be fired, ineffective management) and treats all the other employees like dirt. He has fantasies that he’s going to be promoted to operations manager and actually applied when the position was open (he cannot even do his assigned duties correctly.)

          1. Cactus*

            My college boyfriend’s best friend claimed to have joined the Army at age 13, to have previously been blind but been given special robot eyes by the army, to speak many languages (but he never would), to have done basically every job you can think of, and to have SOME connection to whatever was being discussed (for example, I mentioned that we were driving past my high school, and he all the sudden had an ex who went there, but died).

      4. Virginia Plain*

        We had a similar event in an online forum I used to frequent! There was a member who people began to suspect did not really, let’s say, adopt sick orphaned otters like the rest of us did, but merely pretended for the status/sympathy, and they started to point out inconsistencies in her stories and basically call out her BS.
        She said she had to go to hospital for a minor operation and then her supposed husband used her account to announce she’d died – in fairly soap opera terms too. I kid you not I am sure “Something went wrong. She didn’t make it.” is a direct quote. Nobody believed it but whatevs, we moved on
        But there’s more!
        A while later, less than a year I think, someone posts on the forum saying they’d been on the linked live chat room and the lovely friendly (innocent) people in there had encouraged her to come and introduce herself on the main forum. Yes, it’s Fakey Fiona using the SAME ACCOUNT!! Like we’d all have forgotten, and her >1 previous post count wasn’t shown right next to her name! Cue someone replying “er, didn’t you die?”, someone else finding and quoting her “death announcement”, and the rest of us stuffing our faces with popcorn. It was comedy gold.
        She disappeared again after that, and I think the mods banned the account.

      5. Gretchen Wiener*

        Someone I knew in college did this! It was her “fiance” and he died in a car accident. He turned out to be a real person they had met a few times at camp or something.

  1. KHB*

    I don’t see how this doesn’t affect business. If she’s willing to lie about her entire personal life, what else is she willing to lie about? Even if she hasn’t been caught lying about anything work-related yet, how can you work with somebody when you can’t trust anything they say?

    1. it's me*

      Yes, I think it does affect business if the employee is accepting cash raised for her in the form of a gas gift card. If done knowingly, it’s a grift.

      1. Lego Leia*

        This has effected business. The department rallied around her, which I read as “we picked up her slack”. Plus, she wasted hours on fake phone calls, which were also time when she was not working.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Yes, it sounds like there’s no way she put in the expected level of effort for her position *because* she ran this series of scams on the office. There’s zero chance she was “in the car” for all those fictional round trips to the hospital so she basically cadged hours of paid free time for that, not to mention the play-acted phone calls.

          1. INeedANap*

            Yeah, if they use time cards, or if she took leave at all, this is now time charging fraud and is absolutely a fireable offense. This is also one of those cases where “at will employment” is supposed to come in handy.

          2. Not really a waitress*

            We actually had a salary sr manager terminated recently for time theft. She was rarely at work but telling people she was working at home. Turns out she wasn’t even logging in. So security termed her for time theft.

          3. Momma Bear*

            Agreed. It is one thing to lie. It is another to accept time/support/gifts from your coworkers to support that lie. She received some very real benefits from her mistruths. I wouldn’t be able to trust her with anything again.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yep. Lying about having a boyfriend is one thing. Lying about a sick family member and using that lie to get gifts, a lightened workload, and time off? That affects the business and everyone who works with her.

        1. 10Isee*

          “I’ll be paying by grift card today”
          “I don’t think we accept those.”
          “Can’t you make an exception just this once? You see I’ve recently had a string of personal tragedies…”

          1. mrs__peel*

            That reminds me of the “30 Rock” episode where they scam Carvel for ice cream cakes.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Right?? Someone who lies that frequently and that elaborately probably lied on their resume and is faking documents or results for work. Either of those is very serious for the employer, so they should be taking the complaints seriously.

      1. irene adler*

        Maybe, maybe not.
        These were all lies or actions to garner attention: daughter sick, rich boyfriend, travels to Italy & New York, long phone calls where she made sure co-workers knew she was talking to the boyfriend.

        Fudging work product isn’t in the same vein.

        I worked with a woman who was like this- to a lesser degree. Some were exaggerations of true events, and others were stories cut from whole cloth. All were things that happened outside of work: Michael Douglass hit on her, she is friends with various famous people “in the biz”, lots of dramatic stories about being unjustly accused of something by a neighbor or a landlord or a now-ex-friend, found a baby mountain lion in her living room. Or she was going to appear on TV for something. Never did.

        Her work itself was just fine. I was in the position of evaluating her work so I’d be the one to spot any issues in that department.

        One time she told a very obvious tall-tale and I called her on it. Long story short, she ‘fessed up. In tears she told me that “your lives are so very interesting and you do such fun things, I just wanted people to think my life was just as interesting.”

        Rather sad if you think about it.

        1. ampersand*

          Baby mountain lion in her living room?! That’s so over the top!

          So did she stop with the lies after that?

          1. Self Employed*

            Depends on where she lives. I have friends living on the wildland-urban interface who regularly post photos of various wildlife on their patio or blocking the road in front of their house. I’ve visited them and recognize the locations–they’re not just reposting someone else’s photos. If they were careless enough to leave the patio door open (which they wouldn’t because their cats would escape and become coyote food), a curious cub could very well wander in.

            I used to live in a small rural college town, and the curator of our Mammals collection had to shoot a bear that was killing his sheep and dining out of his supposedly bear-proof garbage can when it started hanging out on his patio with no fear of humans.

            1. Self Employed*

              Forgot this… About once a year, Animal Control would have to relocate adolescent mountain lions investigating campus buildings.

        2. fposte*

          I think this is a great example. I know as a co-worker I would be fascinated by what’s going on with Lysa, because it’s so weird, but it really can be just its own thing. I think for some people life is their own RP fanfic. I don’t think it’s uncommon in kids, but most of us grow out of it; a few never do.

        3. FrenchCusser*

          I actually have met quite a number of famous people (I used to be expert at backstage-sneaking), but I don’t talk about it much because it would sound like a lie.

          But then, I also don’t care what people think about me. I’m not even sure they have a right to think about me at all. I certainly don’t feel the need to impress people.

          I kinda feel sorry for the people who do.

          1. boop the first*

            “I’m not even sure they have a right to think about me at all.”

            Damn, that’s powerful and should be embroidered on something

    3. Elenna*

      Also, the fact that everyone (understandably) doesn’t trust her should pretty obviously affect business…

      1. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

        Perhaps legally, it’s iffy ground? Agree here morally though!

          1. TheAG*

            In theory. In reality if your company has a legal department they’re going to want about 30 pages of documentation on someone before they’ll pull the trigger. And yes that’s in an at-will state.

    4. Pants*

      Absolutely co-sign on this. It completely undermines any trust her judgement. It’s also…just gross. I feel like lying about someone having cancer is almost taunting cancer. I know that sounds weird, but allow me a small superstition please.

      1. caryatid*

        oh same, same. lying about my kids being sick seems like it would just be tempting fate.

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        Yeah, I thought at first it was that they made up the fact that they had a child and said she was sick–but I guess she really had daughters and lied about one of them being sick and I agree that feels so much worse. Like, logically, I don’t *reeeeally* believe in that kind of superstition but… why would you even put that out into the universe. Just in case.

        1. Pants*

          I think I’d feel less icky about it if she actually had made up the daughter. At least then it’s not putting as much out there. Yeah, just… icky. Same reason I never killed anyone off in high school or college when I ditched class. Even if they were already dead. Just… Nah.

          1. Mannequin*

            Even for someone who doesn’t have superstitious feels about it, it still seems really creepy and boundary violating to lie about other people’s health or personal circumstances like that.

    5. ChemPlantPrincess*

      That’s an awful lot of lying to recover from. If I were her boss/HR, I’d be checking her resume. And I’m not sure I would trust her with any work that needed to be kept confidential.

    6. Hil*

      Yea, this effects the business in the same way it would if she was blatantly very very rude, or if she was giving coworkers the silent treatment. She’s burned every bridge there. I have a hard time believing she could be effective in almost any job.

    7. restingbutchface*

      This. Translation – “this is a difficult situation, so we are going to pretend it isn’t happening, goodbye”.

      This is not a sustainable environment for anyone. I had a pretty standard reaction to this letter – horror, disgust. Anyone who has cared for a sick kid would feel the same. There are some lines you do not cross. But underneath that reaction I have a deep sense of foreboding. This is not the behaviour of a healthy and happy person. This is not the behaviour of someone lying for the first time. What was the last lie and what is going to happen next? This person needs help and all the employees involved need support to work thorough this. I cannot imagine looking at someone who had told such a terrible lie and chatting about invoices or whatever.

      Awful, awful situation all round.

  2. Philly Redhead*

    I’ve been a participant on a message board for ::coughcough::10years::coughcough:: and we’ve seen this, well, more than once. I guess they have some need for attention that is unfulfilled in their personal life?

    1. Sleepless*

      I’ve always wondered about this. I’ve been an avid reader of message boards since the late 90s. The stories I could tell you. I’ve always wondered what makes a person decide to be this kind of energy vampire.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I assume that the person is either a con artist or has some sort of mental illness, similar to Munchausen Syndrome. She might not even be able to confront & acknowledge the lies.

      2. Red 5*

        Same. Way back in the early days, in my first few months on the internet at the tender age of 13 (in the mid 90s so there was only so much internet) I got super into a particular usenet group. There was a huge thing where two people who were the popular kids suddenly claimed to be dating and then one of them “got shot” and eventually “died”… it was a bunch of teenagers so it was all needlessly dramatic and weird. I can’t even remember if one of them turned out to have made up the other or if they were both in on it but none of it happened. That was a real education about being skeptical, especially online.

    2. Crivens!*

      Yeah, I’ve been Very Online since 1997 and I’ve seen this happen a ton, but it’s of course a lot easier to do online. One guy faked his life, marriage, and eventual suicide so well that a major pop culture website had an obit up for him, which they had to pull when it was discovered it was all lies.

    3. Artemesia*

      Were you on the one where ‘Rockstar’ created an EMT persona and then killed them off with ‘we have lost one of our own’ —- That taught me that most of what is on many message board groups is people’s fantasy lives.

    4. Justme, The OG*

      I’ve seen this in the online space too. The person even created online accounts for the friends who didn’t exist and would post as them.

      1. quill*

        I’ve heard of this as fandom grift, so… usually not getting money, just attention? This one occurring in the workplace has me baffled about the grifter’s judgement.

        1. it's me*

          Wasn’t there some BNF who claimed her laptop was stolen and everyone raised money to buy her a new one?

              1. quill*

                And recently taken to court over the one example of “plagiarism” that was ludicrously fake, and possibly part of the only genre she wouldn’t have borrowed from.

                (Essentially: a prolific paranormal romance author essentially tried to sue that various tropes and common english words constituted violations of her copyright. Romancelandia, YA, and modern / urban fantasy publishing as a whole was not impressed.)

              2. KaciHall*

                Thank you! (I’ve avoided online fandoms since back then but I still make a face every time I see Cassie Clare anywhere.)

            1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

              “fanfic sanitizer” and “drama queen” Cassandra Clare.

              1. quill*

                Uh, wasn’t she involved in a ship war that took down entire archives? Because reading the Pre-2012ish HP fandom’s shennanigans on Bad Penny is FASCINATING. And terrifying.

                1. One of the Fanfic Authors Affected By Cassandra Clare*

                  She totally was. The Draco Trilogy hosted on (gosh that site eludes me now – even I have fanfic posted on it waaaay back in the early 2000s) – had 4 subsites and a couple of others dedicated to the “Houses” of Hogwarts.

                  She took that whole damn thing down with her Draco Trilogy. I’ll confess that I read all three fanfic novels. They were interesting, but she clearly used it and the infamy from it to springboard to her career as a YA novelist.

                  On the flip side – if anyone ever finds her “Very Secret Diaries” for LOTR (movie) trilogy – that one is meme-tastic and I honestly like it just for sheer humor.

              2. restingbutchface*

                Oh my lord, of all the things I didn’t expect to read on AAM today! This was classic fandom drama and it irritates me that she now has books in stores, created in part due to the support of the fans she scammed. Urgh.

                1. I take tea*

                  I’m sorry about all that. I rather enjoyed her fanfic and thought that her Mortal series was quite fun, even if obvious fanfic. But as I like fanfic I didn’t mind. I did mind reading about the shenigans, though, and it soured her for me.

              1. restingbutchface*

                Was this a response to the Cassie Claire comment? The comment structure can be difficult sometimes. If so, I’m sorry if you are a fan and like some on this thread are going to be soured by knowing her past, but look up her name on fanlore.org for a starting point. Plagiarism, sock puppetry and grifting for cash from young fans. And now she is a published author, which really stings.

        2. Jennifleurs*

          So many fandom responses and no one’s mentioned Thanfiction yet?? (Andrew, Victoria… I’d need to brush up the sprawling tale myself lol)

          1. restingbutchface*

            Well, that’s my day gone, I need to reread the whole breakdown of this classic drama again.

            Remember when they were able to psychically channel Orlando Bloom? I mean… we will never see a drama like this again, which I suppose is a good thing.

            I actually stumbled over the blog of one of the real life victims a few months back. Awful. And the person responsible is still active and still scamming real life communities.

            1. Nerd by trade*

              I mean, never say never, the modern era brought us that fake HIV fraudster whose grift was exposed by an author of cannibal mermaid fanfiction, and that’s worth at least a few points in my book

              1. Cooper*

                Was this the one who pretended to have HIV to justify their Hamilton fanfiction, or has someone tried that excuse twice?

                1. restingbutchface*

                  I mean, the answer could be “yes” and “probably, yeah”. HIV was the new online fantasy illness for a while, when cancer became too easy to debunk.

              2. restingbutchface*

                I love the internet, I love this comment and I love the times we live in now. I spent all day yesterday reading fandom dramas from the past and forgot about this one. Good times.

    5. Jennifer Strange*

      I was a mod on a community board and we had someone’s “brother” message us to tell us she had died in a car accident. We couldn’t find anything about it in the news (or an obituary) so we decided not to say anything until we could confirm, but he kept insisting that we tell the rest of the board so that they could mourn her. After that didn’t work she popped back up, claimed her brother and been “messing around” and we just left it at that. Maybe it was just her brother being annoying, but I’m guessing she wanted the chance to pull a Tom Sawyer.

      1. Overit*

        The message board I’ve been on for years had a long-time member post some very nasty messages. When she was ripped into for it, she returned to say it wasn’t her. Oh no. It was “French teenagers” staying at her house. Over a decade later, whenever someone goes off the rails, a member will ask, “Is that really you or is it French teenagers?’

        1. TheAG*

          HAHAHAHA I was on that mb when that happened (unless there were 2 boards where posters got hacked by French teenagers???)

    6. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      MsScribe and HIVliving are the most recent examples I can think of.

        1. restingbutchface*

          I wrote about MsScrive and Thanfiction as part of my degree thesis and by the end, I was absolutely about 21% less sane than I was when I started.

      1. Jennifer in FL*


        Ever since Biden was elected I’ve thought of her every so often, since part of her schtick was that she worked in his Delaware office (while also being a highly in demand backup singer and a photographer, all while dealing with traumatic brain injuries). Good times.

      2. Rachel*

        There was also the fake professor that died from Covid last year that blew up on Twitter when people realized she didn’t actually exist.

        1. LavaLamp*

          There was that woman who lied about being in the Twin Towers on 9/11 too. She had an injury from a car accident that she played off as from that.

          1. lb*

            Steve Rannazzisi (he played Kevin on The League, if anyone remembers that one) also made up a 9/11 escape story, that he told for YEARS. Like 5 years or so ago it came out that it was a lie. Bananas!

        2. MineOwnTelemachus*

          Yeah, BiScientist or whatever. Was being sockpuppeted by a white scientist who was masquerading as Native. It was super weird.

        3. restingbutchface*

          I have a personal and academic interest in online fantasy creations like this – I wrote about them in my thesis pre Covid, but the terrible thing about your example is that the fantasy professor who died of covid, @Sciencing_Bi, was a queer, Native American sexual violence survivor created by a white woman.

          There are real life, horrific impacts when people create fantasies like this, which is why I am raising the red flag over this letter and harshly judging the business who refused to take action.

      3. quill*

        Oh, uh, no death (that I know of) but that person who falsely claimed to have written My Immortal built a pretty elaborate web of lies…

        1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

          Hello Toby and Rose Christo!! (Another that I couldn’t read in real time)

      4. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        TBH, I was not fluent in English enough to read in real time about MsScribe (and I’m not in the Hamilton fandom). They’re infamous for a reason.

    7. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      Anyone remember Kaycee Nicole Swenson? That’s the one I thought of. (I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since that mess…wow!)

      1. restingbutchface*

        Don’t be ridiculous, it can’t be 20 years, it was like, 8 years ago max, I’m going to google that and show you the error of your ways…

        Oh god, I am so very old. I read this in real time when it happened. I need to lie down.

    8. urban teacher*

      I was on a board where someone claimed to be a former Croatian guard and was being summoned to the Hague for war crimes. She vaguely alluded to crimes so most members had no idea about what she was talking about. Still not sure what that was about.

      1. restingbutchface*

        Now that’s a new one on me. It really makes the old school cancer diagnosis or cat fishing with cheerleader pictures seem almost… charming.

  3. Kali*

    I remember this one, and I desperately want an update. Did OP ever figure out if Lysa was lying with 100% certainty (like Alison talks about) or was it iffy? I’m inclined to believe the mother, because one of the coworkers knew her, and I feel as if it would come up if the mom was a flagrant liar herself. Also, I have met people who unabashedly lie about things in just this fashion (most of whom do have mental health issues, but a couple who just loved to take others’ most fabulous stories and adopt them as their own without shame), so it’s not hard to believe. As someone who agonizes over being misunderstood in even the smallest way, people like this fascinate me, I must admit!

    1. KHB*

      It sounds like they were already 100% certain that she was at least lying about the phone calls, so it’s highly likely that she was lying about the rest of it as well. I guess it’s not impossible that she’s a habitual liar and also had a kid with cancer (and a mother who was lying about her kid having cancer), but that’s not a possibility I’d bet on.

      1. Kali*

        Oh, I agree that Lysa seems to be lying about all of it. I just wonder about things like how odd it would be if Lysa used her desk phone instead of her own cell phone (I’m assuming someone saw her using the desk phone? but why use a desk phone when a cell would be so much easier to use to cover your tracks?) and if Lysa was showing photos of some random child or if she provided medical records or what. Basically, I just want to know how deep Lysa went into this, or if the office just accepted all of it until this bombshell from her mom. I want to know if anyone else suspected. It’s all such an interesting dynamic, and I want more details.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Yup, given the internal inconsistencies, and even more so the phone logs, the worry about getting this wrong is well intentioned but unnecessary. And I totally interpreted the hours in the car to the hospital to mean she was dumping her workload on others. They have every right to be pissed.

    2. Beth*

      I also wish there was an update! There must have been at least some items that could be fact-checked — for example, it sounds as if they were able to confirm that the phone calls didn’t actually have a live connection.

      1. Tehanu*

        If you go onto the original post, the OP does give an update there. Basically, management didn’t do anything and the coworkers was definitely lying. OP and most of her colleagues just kept things very professional after.

        1. fposte*

          Which, honestly, I think is the right thing, and I was impressed by the OP for focusing on work goings on and not The Truth about Lysa. Hard to do that with that kind of bait!

    3. Littorally*

      I think OP’s point that Lysa had previously talked about her mother being participatory and supportive and etc etc, then changed the tune to “pretends Rich Boyfriend doesn’t exist and daughter never had cancer” when she was called on it — to me that is perhaps not quite a smoking gun, but very close.

    4. Pants*

      I’d loooove an update too! I suppose Allison emailing the LW for one would be a bit odd and overreaching. But how satisfying would it be?! At least, I hope.

      1. Kali*

        Ohhhhh, yes, that does shed some light! Thank you!

        I wonder how it worked out in the long term, and if Lysa ended up staying. Because yikes.

  4. Exhausted Trope*

    Why can’t management ask for proof of the daughter’s illness? Maybe an insurance form? Is that too intrusive or a HIPAA violation?
    The marriage thing is another matter though unless she’s planning to change her name.

    1. nonbinary writer*

      HIPAA only covers medical employees not giving out information so it wouldn’t be that, but I do think that the whole “give us proof of your dead kid” feels crass at best.

      1. KHB*

        The kid didn’t “die” (and the lies didn’t come to light until after the kid “recovered”), so at least there’s that.

        1. nonbinary writer*

          Ah true, though I hold that “give us proof your kid is dying” is still pretty crass.

            1. Wisteria*

              Proof of condition isn’t necessary for FMLA requests, only proof of medical basis for request.

              1. Self Employed*

                If they’re on official FMLA, that would be close enough to confirm a parent having to be at the hospital (and not just making up an excuse to leave work early).

          1. MassMatt*

            As crass as lying about your kid’s illness, taking extra time off for non-existent hospital trips, milking it all for sympathy, and spending hours at work talking to an imaginary boyfriend (George Glass?)?

            1. nonbinary writer*

              I’m not saying it shouldn’t have been asked, I’m just saying I understand why some people would be hesitant to ask for that information because under *any other circumstance than work* that would be a wildly inappropriate thing to say.

              1. Paulina*

                Yes. And I think it wasn’t official leave, just a lot of covering for her and not wanting to ask for proof, so when it came out, there wasn’t an official legal lie to hang firing her on. Technically everyone’s generosity was voluntary. At minimum they should have managed her out, though.

      2. Exhausted Trope*

        The child didn’t die. It’s not crass at all. It’s the same as requiring a doctor’s note in the event of an extended illness which this presumably was.

        1. I'm Not Phyllis*

          If she was getting paid time off to deal with her child’s illness, then it’s not an overstep but if not I don’t see under what circumstances the employer could ask for that kind of proof. I’m assuming that all gifts were generous but voluntary gifts from the employees and not given by the employer?

          Still though, ouch.

          1. H.R. Caligula*

            I’m surprised the employer didn’t treat this as COBRA protected leave (unless a small employer) , as the primary care giver cancer treatment would certainly qualify. COBRA does require verification from the medical provider.

  5. Malarkey01*

    I remember this one and it really knots my stomach. This is someone who is clearly unwell (the idea of long phone calls with no one on the line…) and I feel so bad for everyone in this situation. I really wish we would get an update on this.

    1. Czhorat*

      Right? As much justified anger as there is, the image of her having a long phone conversation to a dead line in order to create the illusion of a relationship is SO pitiful (in the most literal sense). I can’t imagine not also feeling very sorry for her.

    2. meyer lemon*

      Yeah, this just makes me sad. I can understand why the coworkers feel betrayed, but this doesn’t feel like an elaborate con so much as the desperate actions of someone who is really hurting. Not that that excuses what she’s done, but she doesn’t seem to me like a deceptive mastermind but someone who is probably suffering and acting out in a very strange way. It sounds like she may not have even been fully aware that what she was saying wasn’t real.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Once she accepted money and gift cards from her coworkers this moved beyond sad to outright grift. If it was JUST the fake long phone calls, I would say ignore it, its just Lysa. But when you take money from your coworkers based on your own little fantasy that’s called a con and is illegal.

      2. KayDeeAye*

        It’s just like Alison said – these are not the actions of a happy or healthy person. I’d feel betrayed, too, but I think I’d also feel sorry for her. I sure do now.

    3. Eleanor*

      Me too. She was unwell, or desperate for money, or in a tough situation. People don’t act like this for shirts & giggles, you know? I’m not excusing her actions or anything. But there’s always more to the story.

    4. Green Goose*

      Me too. About eleven years ago I worked at a company and had a coworker whose behaviour got more and more inappropriate over the two years we worked together. We had started a bit friendly but after she did a few things that bothered me like baiting me to say something about a coworker and then telling said coworker when I was very new (think the Mean Girls conversation with Regina and Cady) or raising her voice at me in front of customers, so I just avoided her as much as possible as time went on.

      She started talking about her new boyfriend Bob one day and then talked about him all the time, I remember it had seemed a bit over the top. A couple of colleagues and I even ran into her and Bob one day near our job and she introduced us but then switched to their native language when talking to him. I didn’t think anything of that at the time. I remembered thinking that he seemed so nice and normal and was surprised they were together.

      Well it turns out he was not her boyfriend, he was just a guy who attended her church and had a very surface level friendship with which was confirmed by other people at the office years later. I even wonder if that “chance” meeting near the office was orchestrated by her unbeknownst to Bob or us. We were all so judgmental at the time and added it to the list of “crazy things” about her. But years later I realized she was probably in a really bad place to be doing stuff like that and hope she is doing okay now.

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        Anybody old enough to remember the Brady Bunch, where one of the girls was looking for attention and invented a boyfriend?
        All I remember of that episode was his name, “George Glass”.
        Years later, I worked with a woman my exact age, and we had talked about Brady Bunch, and that one came up. When an imaginative coworker went off the deep end in her “oversharing”, my friend asked innocently, “Oh, is this the millionaire stockbroker you were telling us about last month? Wasn’t his name George Glass?”

        Lemonade doesn’t taste nearly as good when it’s snorted through my nostrils and causes a choking fit.

        I had no way to cover that except to cough that the lemonade had no sugar, and hightail it to the breakroom.

        They really are sick. Mental illness doesn’t excuse crime, though, and the betrayal factor can destroy a department.

    5. SimonTheGreyWarden*

      This. I had a best friend in high school who was like this. She would talk about the boys who were always hitting on her, on fabulous vacations her family went on, concerts and plays she saw, etc. But she wasn’t lying — she genuinely believed these things happened, to the point where she would incorporate me or other friends into them (“Remember that time we saw Cats in Chicago, and my brother spilled his iced tea on you, and then we had to run to catch the taxi my parents were in? You were wearing that black sweater that is just like mine because you liked mine so much!”). There were times I had to question my own memories because hers were so vivid and specific.

      My parents, who were also often part of her stories, because they were like a second family to her (“Remember how your parents adopted me as a freshman and I lived with you that whole year?”) were equally mystified. We used to say she lived in a slightly-shifted reality, one that ran adjacent to the rest of us but was just a little…off.

      She is severely, severely mentally ill. She is not trying to harm anyone, she doesn’t even seem to realize these are not real. When someone calls her out on something, she’ll look lost for a bit and then “remember” how this fits into her facts. (“But you weren’t married to him; he was your college boyfriend.” “Oh, well, we considered ourselves married but we couldn’t really get married because he would lose his parents’ insurance and it was paying for his chemo meds.”)

      She had some seriously bad shit in her life — parents who were absolute crap, a boyfriend who was really really sick and who died when we were just out of college, a sexual assault — and I think part of her ‘world’ is a way to deal with that. She is a wonderful person; I still see her around sometimes. But her reality is not real.

  6. Jessica Fletcher*

    I saw the headline and was shocked there was another! Glad to see it’s a reprint.

  7. SoloKid*

    I think Alison’s answer was great. Wondering why mom wouldn’t accept that bridal shower invite and see what all the fuss was about! And did the pictures of the fiance include both of them? So strange!

  8. K. M.*

    Before everyone starts judging, please be aware that pathological lying (if she indeed is lying) is a mental disorder. The causes could be far raging like spousal abuse, childhood trauma, or may even be genetic.

      1. Wisteria*

        It affects OP’s and the other coworkers mental health by helping them manage their beliefs about the situation. If you believe someone is a grifter, as is suggested above, it will impact you very differently than if you believe someone has an illness. Advice on how to change how you view a situation is equally valuable to advice on what action to take in a situation.

      2. Danish*

        It may not change the outcome, but it changes how they should approach Lysa, aka with compassion instead of “omg terrible person who lied to us all just for giggles”.

        1. KHB*

          If Lysa were willing to admit she had a problem and work on getting help, I’d agree with you. But from OP’s comments on the original post, it sounds like Lysa was given a chance to come clean and apologize, and she refused to do so. There’s a limit, I think, to how long people can be expected to continue offering compassion when all of that compassion just disappears into a black hole.

          1. K. M.*

            If it is indeed a mental illness, and she’s not just lying for the fun of it, there’s a good possibility that she can’t actually help the compulsion and in some cases may not even realize what she’s doing.

            We wouldn’t blame someone with clinical depression for not seeking out help. We wouldn’t blame an addict.

            It can take a lot to get a person to realize they need help and even more to get it. We don’t know what sort of life situation this person is in or what sort of support network they have or if any at all.

            It’s easy to think the person should do this or that. It’s a lot harder to have some empathy and think about why a person may not act the way we’d expect them to.

            1. KHB*

              Empathy is great. But empathy doesn’t require you to extend an infinite amount of patience to someone who’s taking advantage of you, and it’s not a healthy mindset to think that it does.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              > We wouldn’t blame an addict.
              Maybe not pass moral judgment, no. But putting someone on a PIP for being under the influence at work? And firing them if they continue to be so at work? Absolutely acceptable.

              1. Danish*

                Good thing KM didn’t say “before anyone suggests Lysa face consequences” then, and instead just advocated for some kindness and understanding.

          2. Ada*

            That’s not how mental illness works, though. If she’s having delusions or a literal psychotic break, she may not understand that what she’s saying doesn’t line up with reality. She may not be aware she has a problem at all.

            1. KHB*

              So what are you saying that an employer should do in response to an employee who’s having “delusions or a literal psychotic break”? Surely not just carry on with business as usual on the grounds that nothing can be done?

              1. Ada*

                Not at all. If a person IS suffering a psychotic break, they probably need help to even recognize it. What that would look like would depend heavily on the context, but could range from calling their personal emergency contact to calling local resources to have a professional check on them to see if they need additional help, hospitalization, etc. Personally, I’d start by talking to someplace like my local NAMI chapter, describe what I’m seeing from this person, and see what they suggest. They may have resources to help you better understand what your options are. Might not hurt to talk to a lawyer to be on the safe side, too, to make sure whatever path you choose is in line with employment law.

                On the flip side, if they are of sound mind and doing this to grift their coworkers, I’d personally take a more punitive approach, and would seriously consider firing this person, because I can’t imagine anyone being able to regain trust if they’re *knowingly* lying about things like this

                The letter doesn’t have enough information to know which situation we’re seeing here, so it’s worth considering both possibilities.

        2. RagingADHD*

          It doesn’t change the fact that they can’t rely on the accuracy of what she says. Indeed, it makes it worse.

          At least with a grifter, they are going to lie to get stuff, but they probably aren’t going to lie about ordinary work stuff, like whether the TPS reports are done. A pathological liar may lie for irrational reasons when there is no benefit, or even when the lie is detrimental to them.

          So you can’t take their word for anything at all, and so you have to double-check every single thing they do at work to verify it. That’s a huge deal.

      3. BRR*

        First would be a very direct conversation with Lysa.

        But to your question, now venturing down a road where I’m unsure of what is legal but assuming the employer can require a medical exam for these issues as they probably affect the ability for Lysa to do her job, the employer should require a medical exam and then treat it like they would any other medical issue an employee was having.

        1. KHB*

          Usually, Alison’s advice to letter writers is to focus on the problematic behavior itself (in this case, the lying), rather than your presumptions about what the causes of it might be. That would suggest saying to Lysa, “However you want to accomplish it, you need to stop lying to your coworkers. We have an EAP available if you think that would help, but if you want to keep your job here, you need to stop the lying, one way or another.”

          1. Wisteria*

            That is Alison’s usual advice. Her advice would be improved if she included advice on how to change how one sees the situation in addition to what actions one can take (when appropriate).

            1. Observer*

              No. Because that would require waaaay too many assumptions and diagnoses.

              We don’t know what the deal with Lysa is. We don’t know if she is psychotic or has any form of mental illness.

              The actions that the OP and the rest of the office should take remain the same. This is not someone they can trust, regardless of the reasons.

          2. BRR*

            For the conversation I think it would be more “we noticed X and Y, can you tell me what is going on?” At this point, Lysa isn’t someone you can trust.

            1. fposte*

              Agreed. And honestly, “stop lying to your coworkers” is a troublesome request (most of the time it’s perfectly within our prerogative to do that), and it’s hard to police. It’s tempting, because this is such an aberration, to want to correct the aberration, but the goal is to minimize the *disruption*, which isn’t the same thing.

      4. Delphine*

        KM didn’t say it does affect what the employer should do. Only how we should react–with less judgement and more compassion. It does no harm.

      1. nonbinary writer*

        No, but it does mean that we should approach the situation with compassion and an eye towards getting this person the help they need, instead of purely punishing them.

        1. Sharrbe*

          It doesn’t sound like the coworkers want to “punish” her, they just have a limited amount of options at their disposal. They’re not medical doctors, counselors, or management. They’re not qualified to help her or to understand the depth of her illness. I mean, are they technically “hurting” the co-worker now if they just nod and agree with stories that turn out to be untrue? Or, is it better for the co-worker if they don’t allow these stories to snowball out of control? They are being asked to handle things way above their paygrade.

          1. pancakes*

            Yes to all this. Whether Lysa is profoundly unwell or profoundly desperate to intrigue her coworkers or whatnot is way above their pay grade to sort out, and doesn’t really change the advice – no one is recommending that they be mean to her.

        2. Colette*

          I don’t really think that her coworkers are responsible for getting her the help she needs. I agree that compassion is a good approach for the OP and her coworkers – i.e. they should remind themselves that happy, healthy people don’t do stuff like this – but they’re also allowed to be angry that their trust was abused, and decide that they don’t want to give Lysa another chance.

        3. Littorally*

          We can’t do anything “with an eye toward getting this person the help they need.” We’re a bunch of faceless internet commenters discussing a four-year-old post. Neither can we punish them.

        4. Observer*

          an eye towards getting this person the help they need, instead of purely punishing them.

          That’s untenable on a number of levels. But the most fundamental and practical issue here is that it’s simply not possible for the OP and the rest of the staff to even begin to try to “get this person the help they need” because that person is totally denying that there is a problem. You can’t force a person to get or accept help that they don’t think they need. The only POSSIBLE exception is when the troubled person “bottoms out” and even then it doesn’t always happen.

      1. Wisteria*

        It does change some of the impact. It won’t change the financial impact of donating money. Changing how you view a situation can change the psychological impact of the situation, though. It is less harmful to you to consider that Lysa might be driven by a psychological problem than to believe that she is driven by the desire to shaft you.

    1. Misty*

      Thank you for being one of the few people here with a voice of kindness and empathy.

      Reading this made me feel so sad for Lysa. I can’t imagine what internal battles someone is going through to lie and weave such a long and intricate story just to get attention.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        I knew someone many years ago who was lying about so many things in her life, and it took quite a while to connect all the dots and realize she was lying. I had a chat with her late one night and let her know that we all knew, and her response was not denial or shame or anything that could be empathized with – it was “So what, it’s fun!” When I explained that it had hurt the rest of us because of the trust issue, once again, her response was “So what?” Just saying, some people aren’t fragile and damaged, but total jerks. And where does the empathy line get drawn – Money cons? Outright theft? Stalker behavior? Assault? Any of these could be explained as “Ooh, they couldn’t help themselves.” In real life, you have to deal with the behavior and how it affects other people.

    2. StudentA*

      It could be pathological lying/a mental disorder. But sometimes it could just be a manipulative personality.

    3. yep*

      I have to agree, K.M. There’s also no “smoking gun” which proves 100% that Lysa was lying, nor that the mother was telling the truth 100%, including in the updated information from the original post which some lovely commenters below have shared. (Thank you!)

      My instinct is that the truth of the situation is much more complicated than that. If Lysa really was lying about everything, she needs medical help, not a bunch of colleagues snooping through office phone records playing detective. If this really did all happen in small town, and Lysa’s mother is a well regarded, prominent citizen of that town, it is extremely likely that Lysa’s “problems with the truth” would have come to light well before this, and would have been town gossip for years.

    4. Nerd by trade*

      People who are hurt by someone’s bad behaviour are perfectly entitled to see to their own well-being without agonizing over the mental health of the perpetrator. Maybe Jane is mentally ill, maybe she’s just awful, who knows. OP is not obliged to look for ways to excuse Jane’s lies.

      1. Self Employed*

        I had a friend whose tragic backstory and current woes were undermined when I inadvertently witnessed someone calling out her lies about their role in one of the main plot threads. I had already been giving her more time and energy than I could really handle, and was troubled by how she kept changing things and accusing me of not remembering correctly. OK, I forget things sometimes–but not that consistently about stories I had heard only weeks ago. It was not a healthy relationship for other reasons too, and at that point I decided I didn’t care whether or not she was deliberately manipulating me or didn’t know what was true. I needed out of the relationship.

        Luckily, she moved to a better apartment on the other side of the city and we were no longer convenient proximity–a natural transition point. The new apartment would resolve a lot of the ongoing issues she needed support with anyway.

  9. Mimmy*

    Alison makes a good point…was it definitively proven that Lysa lied about her daughter’s illness? How did the denial of having a boyfriend lead to figuring that she also lied about the illness? This is a tricky one.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Well, her mom said she didn’t have a BF and her daughter never had cancer.

      Her mom was proved right by company/coworkers checking the phone records showing those long phone calls to BF were faked.

      Her mom could be lying about the daughter’s cancer but not about the boyfriend, but it seems unlikely.

    2. Amaranth*

      The situation is bizarre but if you ignore the amateur sleuthing of phone records isn’t it reduced to a she said/she said situation? I wouldn’t absolutely rule out that Lysa lied about her mother being supportive.

      1. MassMatt*

        If you ignore the evidence, sure. That’s always an option to rationalize doing nothing.

        1. yep*

          Because they could be wrong: not all phone systems are especially reliable; the phone number may have been the boyfriend’s, not hers; the person doing the snooping in the phone records may not have not what they were doing, nor have had access to everything they needed to snoop properly; it may just have been gossip.

          Who would even have access to the full phone logs in the office? Who would have the authority to share that information?

          1. Ya Girl*

            OP commented on the original post, they all have access to the phone records to collaborate on work. She was calling her own cell phone.

            1. Amaranth*

              I didn’t realize there was more in the comments, just that OP said in the original post she was “not connected to anything” and I could think of a couple ways to make calls that aren’t readily apparent, especially to laymen. Of course, I’ve never worked anywhere that made every phone record accessible to all the staff.

          2. pancakes*

            The OP’s comments on the earlier post indicate that Lysa was calling her own cell phone from her desk phone. There are other details about the call history explained as well. It’s not as dubious as you make it out to be.

  10. J.E.*

    When Lysa was showing photos of her boyfriend, who were the photos of? Had she taken them from someone’s profile? Had she just found some random guy online and started stealing his pictures?

    1. Rainy*

      She should tell everybody he’s a wallet photo model.

      Seriously though, the social media photo stealing happens a LOT. I’m mostly aware of it because my sister’s husband is a veteran and while he was deployed there were several instances of people stealing his photos and using them to catfish with on FB. FB wouldn’t do anything unless someone kept at them about it, not a thing you can do easily when you’re deployed overseas, so she handled all that stuff. It happened every time he was deployed, too.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Almost every random dude requesting to be friends on FB is military. Or “military”. I assume they’re all catfishing fakes.

    2. nonbinary writer*

      This raises an interesting possible path to learning more: if Lysa *sent* anyone a picture over chat or email or posted them to social, someone could reverse image search the picture and see if it’s a stock photo or a minor celeb or something like that.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I think people are probably tempted to do that. But that’s an example of why the Lysa problem becomes a co-worker problem; this is somebody getting invested in a co-worker’s drama to the extent of reverse image searching their family members. That’s not a good thing in its own right, regardless of what it reveals about Lysa.

  11. kiki*

    One thing I want to point out for anyone managing in a situation like this (though probably a less extreme version), is that just because you’ve caught one liar doesn’t mean management must change their documentation policy for everyone. I’ve seen organizations react to one liar with a new policy expecting official documentation of everyone for every type of absence. Unless you work with a lot of untrustworthy people, changes in policy like this will ultimately kill more morale for trustworthy employees than the number of liars who it dissuades.

    1. Quickbeam*

      My very august company completely flipped its unlimited sick time policy to PTO only after a tiny number of people abused it. Literally less than 5. So the rest of us who give extra every day were robbed of a valuable benefit because of a few leakers. It definitely does happen.

  12. MCMonkeybean*

    It’s a very curious case and I know in the original discussion the OP cleared up a number of points but I’m still particularly curious about this part: “The children’s hospital was an almost two-hour drive, so she was in the car a lot.”

    Was that during the work day? Was she leaving work claiming to be driving her child to the hospital (or to go visit her there or something) and then… doing something else? Because that would I think be considered pretty work-related.

    I think it’s fine, maybe even good, that they started asking for proof from her of claims around things like accidents once she has a track record of lying–but I just hope they kept that only to her and didn’t start creating preemptive policies that all employees needed to provide documentation for any absences. It’s always a shame when one person manages to break the trust for everyone.

    1. SEM*

      I was also wondering the same. Was she getting extra PTO or FMLA for dr’s appt? Surely then some proof would’ve been required

    2. HS Teacher*

      That was my first thought: if she is stealing time the company should absolutely get involved and terminate her employment. I’d be livid if I had given up my time and energy to cover for someone and found out they were lying the entire time. I agree with Alison about making absolutely sure it’s a lie but, once found out, I think she should be terminated.

  13. Czhorat*

    It seems very likely to me that Lyssa has some kind of mental illness; this is not normal behavior at all.

    I understand OP’s anger, but I feel sad for everyone involved. There has to be something deeply wrong in someone’s life for them to go through these lengths to create a fantasy world.

    1. Wisteria*

      It’s not normal behavior—and it could be due to mental illness or not due to mental illness. Lots of abnormal behaviors happen in people with no mental illness. It might help the Op deal to keep in mind that there could be and underlying mental illness, however, neither she nor we know enough to tell.

    2. JP in the heartland*

      I wonder is the break up of the original marriage was the start of all the lies? (If there was an original marriage…)

      1. fhqwhgads*

        The letter says the “it was all lies” revealed she was never married. I’m assuming the mother stated this? So no, sounds like there was not an original marriage.

  14. Ashley*

    Oooof. Pathological narcissism at its finest, and so challenging to address at work.

    This kind of thing is dissected in detail on the Something Was Wrong podcast (an Iris Award-winning true-crime docuseries) in a couple of their series that take place in the workplace, especially Season 2 (starting with She Had the Medical Mind). It’s fascinating.

    1. nonbinary writer*

      can we please stop casually diagnosing people with Cluster B Personality Disorders, which are genuine mental illnesses deserving compassion and care and are often the result of repeated trauma, instead of stigmatizing them further?

      1. Well...*

        Ya I’ve said this before but narcissism does seem to be used as a label: “warning! evil! do not get in any way involved with this person if it can be avoided.” I’m not saying evil doesn’t exist, but it probably shouldn’t be pathologized away so easily.

        Also pathologizing someone as a way to explain away evil is divorced from empathy and compassion. It’s a recipe for disaster.

        1. quill*

          As stated yesterday, being an a-hole to people is a choice / an impact of your choices, not a medical condition. Now there are medical conditions that can make being an a-hole easier to accomplish and / or appear more beneficial to someone, but everyone has to learn – with whatever medical or nonmedical help they need – how to deal with other people.

      2. Student Affairs Sally*

        +1000. I honestly wish Alison would just ban the term “narcissism/narcissist” on this site, because it’s never used correctly, and even when it is, it would be impossible for even a mental health professional to accurately diagnose someone from a single blog post, much less a bunch of laypeople who *think* they know what that word means.

        But then again she already bans armchair diagnosis and it still happens constantly *ahem*

        1. Wisteria*

          Narcissism is a personality trait that a person can have to varying degrees without having a personality disorder, though. If somebody is displaying selfishness, lack of empathy, or self-adulation, then it’s fair to say that they are exhibiting narcissism or acting narcissistic.

          1. Wintermute*

            This. right here.

            The problem is, and “Narcissism” is by no means alone in having this problem, is that there’s a colloquial, nonmedical use and there’s a medical use, and those two are not remotely the same. So you have people saying it intending the nonmedical meaning, and people hearing that with the medical meaning and vice versa.

            To be perfectly honest “mentally ill” as a whole has that problem too, some people use it colloquially to mean “not thinking and behaving in a rational manner that comports to societal norms” and other people use it clinically to mean “suffering from an identifiable mental illness contained in a diagnostic manual.” The problem with the first definition is that it often begs the question (in the formal logical sense of the term, that is not as a synonym for ‘prompts the question’)– “why is someone acting unusually? they must be mentally ill! why must they be mentally ill? well, they’re acting unusually!”

            1. allathian*

              Yes, this. It happens with a lot of things, not just narcissism. People say “oh, I’m so depressed” even when they’re just feeling a bit blue, or “that’s so OCD” when someone washes their hands all the time, or all the talk about the ADHD brain, etc.

              1. Well...*

                It happens, but that doesn’t make it ok. Trivializing OCD and mental illness this way is problematic and causes harm, thus the pushback.

                1. Wintermute*

                  OCD is OCD though that is only a “thing” in the medical context. But “depressed” is a feeling and a mood in its own right, independent from Major Depressive Disorder or as a symptom of other mood disorders. That’s my whole point. It’s not really minimizing to use words that mean things other than their medical meaning according to the meaning of those words. The problem is when one person is using one meaning and another is using the other meaning, and miscommunication occurs.

    1. fposte*

      I think the only update was in the comments, which was basically that everybody had backed off the Lysa obsession and was treating her with professional distance (which seemed to be an outlier in a workplace where people tended to be very in each other’s personal business). That’s not the most dramatic outcome, but I think it’s genuinely the best.

  15. fogharty*

    I had a family member who actually married someone like this; this person was a sociopath and a pathological liar. She’d lie about anything and everything, just for the drama, or more often than not to scam money out of people. He finally got divorced but it will affect the rest of his life.

    And of course, nothing bad ever happened to her. She just went on to more and more victims.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      My uncle married a woman like this. My grandfather, his father, died just a few days before the wedding so the wedding was scaled down considerably, but it turned out that in fact the bride had not ordered a cake, or catering. The food was supposedly going to be put into someone’s freezer for a party later on, but it apparently had never existed. Really weird.
      The uncle had been unmarried for years, he was older than my mother and I must have been in my teens, and I think he was pretty gullible. The timing of his father’s death was perfect for the bride (no she didn’t bump him off).

    2. Littorally*

      I narrowly avoided marrying someone like this. I don’t think people truly understand what it feels like to be mired in a web of manipulation and lies until they’ve been there.

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      I worked for someone like this! She wasn’t quite as blatant, but eventually I realized that if she had told me the sky was blue, I would’ve run to the window to check the veracity. And grabbed to co-workers as independent, corroborating witnesses.

      Someone once referred to her as a “hypochondriac.” They were wrong. She was a malingerer.

  16. June*

    Stating one’s child has cancer falsely and accepting remuneration for said sick child, can be illegal.

    If it’s true, she should be fired.

    1. allathian*

      Agreed, she should be fired. I must admit that this is where I draw the line. As long as she was only inventing things that never happened I could feel some empathy for her, but after she accepted money on false pretenses, nope. I don’t really care if she lied because she was mentally ill and couldn’t help herself or because she was just a horrible person, either way I wouldn’t want to deal with her.

      1. A Person*

        I want to know if there was actually a daughter. The letter didn’t mention it either way.

  17. MassMatt*

    I agree that Lysa probably has big problems, but I think the employer seriously erred in not immediately firing her. The elaborateness and extended nature of the lying as well as the fact that much of it impacted work (hours traveling to the hospital—presumably time off work?, the hours spent talking to the imaginary BF at work, the gas card) to me means she has to go.

    If this employee steals from a client, lies to a vendor, embezzles, etc. the manager’s inaction has opened them up to enormous liability for negligence. No idea what business the office is in or what dear Lysa’s role is but if any dispute goes to court opposing attorney will have a field day with this, and at the very least the company’s reputation will be severely damaged. As it stands, the gossip and rumors about this crazy story are no doubt damaging the company already. Would you want to do business with a company whose employee does all of this and management shrugs and says “Meh. Not about work, so nothing we can do”?

    1. allathian*

      No, I definitely wouldn’t want to do business with them. I also would be looking for a new job if I had a coworker like Lysa.

  18. Temperance*

    One of my dear friends lost her toddler to cancer, after the kid fought for more than half of her short life. My colleagues would have to hold me back if someone ever tried this around me. Watching a baby go into hospice and then die was incredibly traumatic, and I’m just a family friend; the loss devastated their entire family, and continues to do so. Lying about something like that is so disgusting that I wouldn’t ever be able to deal with that person in a professional manner again.

    Lysa should have been immediately fired, and they should have reported her fraud to the police. People like her make it harder for people who need and deserve help to get it.

      1. MassMatt*

        Probably fraud. Not to the extent that some people have, where they create websites etc to raise money, but still, she got a gas card (so, petty fraud), and presumably extra time off.

        1. Observer*

          And you really think this rises to a level that police would spend even 10 minuted on?

          1. allathian*

            Probably not. But for most law-abiding people, it’s a huge shock to have their actions reported to the police and if she’s doing it for the sheer hell of it, it might make her realize she’s gone too far.

            But just for the petty fraud, she should have been fired. Firing her might not get her the help she needs, but it’s not the employer’s responsibility to ensure that she does. It’s particularly not the responsibility of her coworkers, this is way beyond their pay grade.

          2. MassMatt*

            Probably not, the illegality is probably the gas card and I doubt it was a high enough $ value, but it’s still fraud. You are being disingenuous when you ask what crime it is, are answered, and then respond belittling whether the police would want to spend time on it. Petty fraud is fraud, whether the cops want to deal with it or not. Lots of police are lazy or disinterested, or just don’t want something reported in their district as it hurts their stats.

            A friend of mine from Boston was attacked on the street in Cambridge and tried reporting it. Cambridge cops said where do you live, report it there. Boston cops said where did it happen, report it there. Neither wanted to deal with it.

            1. Self Employed*

              If the police get multiple reports of small frauds from her, it could establish a pattern. If she’s doing this at work, she could be doing it at her church or online or in her gardening club.

      2. June*

        It’s fraudulent to collect donations under false circumstances. People get arrested trying to do this on donation sites.

      3. Temperance*

        The grifting and collecting money and other support by claiming that her kid had cancer.

  19. pcake*

    Lysa lied or her mother lied. I wouldn’t take the word of someone who spews all sorts of private information of a relative to people who just happened to show up at her door. Without further investigation, I wouldn’t take either’s word, but I wouldn’t rule out everything Lysa says based on what her mother claimed. If all else fails, a private investigator these days is pretty inexpensive.

    1. Temperance*

      There’s a difference between correcting lies and sharing “all sorts of private information of a relative”, though. The colleagues were showing up to invite Lysa’s mother to a shower for a wedding that was clearly faked.

      1. pcake*

        Consider this. Maybe Mom wants to keep Lysa at home taking care of her or just to keep her company or simply resents her and wants to do her harm. I’ve personally known a mother who did something very similar to her son so everyone thought he was the liar. It cost him his friends, his GF and he wasn’t the liar, as it turned out. But his mother sounded legit, so everyone believed her.

        1. MassMatt*

          I think your personal experience is clouding your judgment here. The mom wasn’t “spewing all sorts of private information”. She was invited to a bridal shower being thrown for her daughter by someone she knew. She was understandably flummoxed and said “what wedding?”. This is a perfectly natural response to a bizarre situation. Put this together with the other info from the OP (she commented with an update when the letter originally posted, which is linked here in the comments) and it’s very clear Lysa has been lying. She was seen in town when she was supposedly in Italy getting married, for example.

          1. pancakes*

            Yes to all this, and if the company wants to fire her they don’t need to hire a private investigator to do so. Likewise if her coworkers want to take a big step back from getting involved in her personal life, throwing parties, etc.

    2. Observer*

      Except that the OP’s office did check the phone records, which corroborated Mom’s story.

  20. twocents*

    For those curious, OP posted several comments on the original post (where, oddly, people were very concerned about that they confirmed the phone logs were just Lysa talking to herself… your work phone is not private!) and just a summary:

    — Lysa would insist she was telling the truth even when it directly contradicted something else she said
    — The phone calls were from her work phone to her own cell phone
    — Lysa provided over-the-top details about her mother’s involvement in the wedding on what her mom saw, ate, thought, etc. which is why it seems very strange to then say that her mom just hates her fiance
    — She was seen driving around town during the week she was supposed to be getting married in Italy
    — Lysa’s mom worked with one of the coworker’s husbands, so it wasn’t a weird thing that they knew her; inviting relatives to the office showers was part of the culture at the company, and the mom knew they were going to reach out to her (just didn’t know why initially)
    — They didn’t just take mom’s word for it; once mom said that Lysa was lying, they started noticing little lies that didn’t register before, as they wouldn’t when you aren’t skeptical of everything someone tells you
    — Mom was well respected in their small town, there is no reason to think she is out to get her daughter, and Lysa has apparently always “had trouble with the truth”
    — They’re certain Lysa lied about the sick child as well. Lysa would confuse details that originally they chalked up to stress (e.g. which hospital the kid was at), and one time, the older child was in the office, and didn’t understand why she was being asked about her sister being sick; Lysa rushed the kid out and called her a liar.
    — Outside of Lysa, the culture at the company is still welcoming and sharing; they treat Lysa at arms-length but still keep things professional. Management has done nothing to try to get them to be warmer toward Lysa.

    Poor OP, on the original comment section, people really treated her like she was a liar or just trying to cause drama. If OP still reads these comments, then I hope she knows that it’s not causing drama to be swept up in someone else’s drama and not know how to handle it. Hopefully Lysa moved on from the company.

    1. irene adler*

      Yep, all lies or actions for attention.

      Right off, I suspected something wasn’t right. Regardless of who is paying the fare, who travels all the way to Italy for just one weekend???

      1. KHB*

        There are travel companies that sell packages to go from the US to Europe for a long weekend (like Thursday through Monday). They might not be to everybody’s taste, but short jaunts across the Atlantic are not really that weird.

        1. A Person*

          Depends on where you’re starting from. East Coast? Short jaunt. West Coast? Not very short at all. Nothing like going to India or Thailand, but still not “long weekend” short.

    2. Wisteria*

      The phone calls were from her work phone to her own cell phone

      That’s just so … thorough.

    3. yep*

      Thank you for the information! I appreciate it.

      I admit, though, that I doubt this is all as simple as “Lysa’s a massive liar”, but this is probably a reflection on some of the, ahem, interesting, colleagues I’ve had over the years (and having to deal with colleagues’ interesting extended families, too)! Of course, this story may be an exception, but in a case like this, the truth is usually more complicated than “one person is lying about everything”. If Lysa really was lying about everything, it’s likely something she needs treatment for, not ostracization (which will likely only exacerbate the problems).

      If Lysa’s mother was known to people at the company before this, I’m sure Lysa’s “lies” wouldn’t have held up as well as they did, nor for as long as they did. Lysa’s mother being “well respected” in their small town means nothing as to who is telling the truth, nor as to if she would have issues with her daughter, but Lysa may also have felt the need for such over-the-top details about her mother’s involvement due to her mother’s standing in the town, especially if her mother hated her fiance. The small town element also makes me doubt as to how the lie of an extremely sick child could have held up for so long. (I admit I come from a small town myself, where such a lie would hold up for probably a week or two at most, if that.)

      The older child may have been intentionally kept in the dark over their sibling’s illness, and/or how bad it was, and Lysa responded the way she did due to fatigue, stress, etc. There are numerous court cases which show that so-called “eye witness” accounts of a particular person being in a certain place at a certain time means exactly squat: people have been imprisoned due to such testimony, only for DNA or other evidence (such as CCTV) showing without a doubt that the person was nowhere near the place however many people said they were.

      1. pancakes*

        Much of this is speculation, and it’s inconsistent with the OP’s comments on the earlier post. Lysa’s stories didn’t hold up very long at all:

        “It really didn’t take much for people to put together some inconsistencies and asked her about them. . .

        Basically the entire thing happened over a few days.”

        1. roll-the-dice*

          Your own mileage may vary, but in my own experience, if all of this really did happen in a small town, and Lysa was a member of a family of some standing, lies such as the ones Lysa was supposedly telling would likely unravel very quickly. Small Town Gossip will often have everyone convinced that the actual truth is 100% bupkis.

          If Lysa really was able to fool such an inter-connected, small-town community about all of this for so long, she is wasted in an office job: the CIA should recruit her. Imagine what elaborate schemes she could pull off with actual training!

          I don’t mean to be glib, but as a few others here have said, there’s probably more to this tale than we’ll ever know, including some complicated family dynamics with Lysa and her mother.

  21. AdAgencyChick*

    I have nothing to add except that “Lysa” was an absolutely inspired choice for this coworker’s pseudonym.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      She was going to make the boyfriend fly! (Not to Italy though.)

      I also came to the comments specifically to admire the pseudonym.

  22. Less Bread More Taxes*

    Question for Alison and other managers: what’s an appropriate response to the “how do you plan to repair those relationships” question? What IS a good and reasonable plan for someone to repair relationships with coworkers?

    1. New Bee*

      In this situation I think it’s impossible because Lysa admitting to the lies means also admitting to taking coworkers’ money under false pretenses. But in general I’d expect the person to:
      – apologize sincerely
      – name what they are going to do differently (e.g., stop oversharing)
      – show, don’t tell (put their head down and get their work done so folks can see them as reliable)

      1. Czhorat*

        I agree. If feasible they might want to try to pay back some of the donations they received, and probablyneed to be in therapy.

    2. Wisteria*

      I would frame it as “These actions have damaged your relationships and here’s why” (even if it seems obvious to you) “we need you to stop doing those things at minimum to repair the relationships. We’d like you to think about other ways to rebuild trust and credibility and bring those ideas to our next meeting.”

      So instead expecting them to come up with a bunch of solutions on the spot, you give them a starting point, you give them some time to think about it, and you make them accountable by having subsequent conversations. If the manager hasn’t been having regular conversations with that person anyway, they should start having regular conversations. If they are already having regular conversations, then it can be just part of their regular conversations. Acceptable answers to adults they are going to do would be specific to that company‘s culture. Things like baking brownies would probably not be a great answer. Things like ways to show additional transparency would be a good answer for a case like this where the original problem is lying.

      1. fposte*

        I think that’s a really good approach, and I think you can take it whether Lysa comes clean or not.

        It does sound from the OP’s description like it was a very in-each-others’-pockets kind of place (hence the stopping by Mom’s house) and was thus particularly vulnerable to getting emotional investment misused; basically, Lysa got fed there in a way she might not have elsewhere.

        1. JM60*

          It does sound from the OP’s description like it was a very in-each-others’-pockets kind of place (hence the stopping by Mom’s house)

          Agreed. Plus, when I read, “everyone pooled money and bought her a gas card,” I wondered if some people felt pressured to donate to her. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone went around to everyone asking for donations with good intentions, all the while putting some people in a position where they feel like they felt like they couldn’t not donate.

      2. Lora*

        The thing is, at the level that Lysa was going to…I cannot think of how she would even go about repairing relationships like that. It’s incredibly hard to win back trust after even one lie, how would she win it back after such a lot of huge deceptions?

        Have an ex-friend who was like this, except for the fact that she was unemployed. She is an ex-friend because when her son was hospitalized during a domestic violence incident (in which she was hitting him, he ran away, a family friend found him, police came and took him to the hospital for evaluation), it turned out she had Munchausen’s By Proxy and had been giving him massive overdoses of various medications to make him seem so ill she’d have to home-school him. When her ex, the boy’s father, demanded an investigation and fought for (and won) full custody in family court, it all came out and the ex actually contacted me and a couple of other friends asking us to give affidavits regarding what we’d witnessed of her behavior. She had been lying about a phenomenal amount of stuff, to the point that the IRS was after her for owing well over six figures in back taxes from a “business” she and the ex had owned, in which they took money for advertising that they never actually did, got sued by clients and then closed the business and declared bankruptcy. She claimed to have a financial advising job – she had been a secretary for a financial advisor for a year and a half over ten years previously, and the guy had also gone out of business for embezzling from his clients. When a bunch of us were sitting around waiting to give our affidavits and chatting, we met an old roommate of hers who also had a lot of stories about her lies. It was this huge, neverending morass.

        Her husband at the time of the child abuse (no idea if they’re still married) ended up getting a paternity test for the child he’d had with her, finding out about the IRS debt and her job non-history all at once. A few times he called some of the now-ex-family friends asking if we could find it in our hearts to call HER up and apologize as she felt we’d all been horribly mean to her, but then on the other hand she had literally no friends at all and all the neighbors were shunning her. We were supposed to somehow feel bad about this, or something, He asked if there was anything he could do to get her some friends back as she had been complaining to Facebook that Jesus was her only friend, and we all said, are you KIDDING? Poor Jesus!

        I can’t imagine trying to manage someone like this. I’d fire Lysa in a heartbeat, starting with “you made up bullcrap to get money out of colleagues” and ending somewhere around “how am I supposed to trust literally anything you say ever without triple checking?!?” It’s incredibly discombobulating to be around someone who lies this regularly and this convincingly, to the point that you start to wonder: am I losing it? didn’t she just say the exact opposite last week? am I losing my memory/mind?

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, this. Empathy is all very good and all, but I sure wouldn’t want to put up with this sort of crap behavior. Some people don’t deserve to have any friends, I put pathological liars in that category.

      1. allathian*

        That’s a good place to start. I still wouldn’t trust a person like that ever again. I could maybe forgive them if they apologized sincerely and told me that they had a mental health problem that was now being treated, but I would never, ever trust them again. If they were just lying for the fun of it, I probably wouldn’t even forgive them.

    3. MassMatt*

      I like the question because it forces the perpetrator to think about the ramifications of what they did and how it affected others, and puts the responsibility on them to come up with the plan to fix it. Hopefully it serves as a wake up call.

  23. Empress Ki*

    It reminds me the French series Mytho on Netflix, where a woman lies to her family about having a cancer.

  24. Amethystmoon*

    I’ve heard of this and sometimes it’s a way for people to dishonestly get money they otherwise would not have. Also, some people really need attention and find dishonest ways to get it. Unless there are photos (such as Lysa with the finance, kid in hospital, etc, I would not believe anything else Lysa says about her personal life anymore.

  25. Why are people like this?*

    OMG… I dealing with this now! She made up (from what we can tell) an abusive boyfriend who beat her up and is now in jail, a stolen vehicle, a child with a brain tumor, a dying mother with a rare disease, and a few other dramatic events. She kept randomly disappearing during the middle of her shifts (conveniently right after a break or her lunch), and when we asked her where she was, she’d always have a new, dramatic explanation. It got to the point where she hadn’t worked a full week since her first week (she’d been here less than 3 months). We started pushing back and things escalated. On the day that we told her that she couldn’t miss any more time, she disappeared again. About 2 hours later, I got a text message from an unknown # claiming to be her boyfriend (the same one who is supposed to be in jail) who said that she’d tried to kill herself and then (in a text) typed out word-for-word a long suicide note (heavily blaming me). I freaked out and called 911. The sheriff went out to perform a wellness check with ambulance in tow. She is fine. There was no suicide attempt. She’s suspended right now while our legal department and HR figures out what to do.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, yikes. The blamey suicide note is a very internetty touch in real life, too. Sorry you’re dealing with this.

    2. Despachito*

      Oh, I feel sorry for the suicide note, this really is a 3rd level blackmail.

      I admire how you resolved it.

  26. Bossy Magoo*

    I worked with someone at a past job who was always talking about his 11-year old daughter. He was a single father and his daughter was his everything. On work trips he would leave dinner early to go and talk to her before she went to bed, he was so proud of her and devoted his whole life to her. Her mother was not in the picture any longer.

    Then he died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack. We were all so worried, what would happen to his daughter? Many of us went to the calling hours where we discovered….

    There was no daughter. And he wasn’t a “single” father. He had a wife – was happily married. No kids. We were flabbergasted and couldn’t really figure out why he had made up such elaborate lies. All we could think was that he had some kind of underlying mental illness and/or wanted to seem like a good family man? We all thought he was a doll no matter what…this was 12 years ago and I’m still so sad that he felt he had to create this fantasy life at work.

    1. Despachito*

      I had a friend like that. She invented a husband and two kids, while the reality was she was single and had no kids.

      She did not use this with us who knew her for years but with an unrelated hobby group. We discovered this only after she died (she lived in our home for several years as she became seriously ill and we were the closest friends she had) and we posted the information on the media. Suddenly a complete stranger wrote something along the lines “how sad a mother of two and a beloved wife had to go so soon, please tell her husband we are awfully sorry”.

      We were baffled so looked up the group in the internet, and found out that she created a half-fake identity when she posed alternately as herself and her husband, and “both of them” were very appreciated in that community. She even met with them several times in person (and I assume she must have invented some reason why the “husband” was unable to participate).

      It was quite a task to figure out the right answer to this kind stranger so as not to deceive the whole community who genuinely loved her, and still not lie. We somehow managed to do this, and started to realize that there were many small occasions where she lied to us as well, possibly the whole time we knew her (i.e. decades) . Most of the lies were related to unimportant things, and I must confess my feelings were quite mixed – I felt terribly sorry and sad for her, and at the same time a bit angry that she lied to us in many things as well, and confused about WHY ON EARTH she felt the need to do this – she was very clever and able and she would certainly be loved and appreciated without the need of lying.

      1. Despachito*

        Moreover, I have considered her my mentor in many things and I admired her (she was considerably older than the rest of us), and it hurt me a lot from this point of view. I know that’s just my problem and she is dead now but it still leaves some bitterness in my mouth.

        1. Bossy Magoo*

          I’m sorry about your friend and the residual feelings of anger you have about what she did. I have to assume – like I did with my coworker – that there just HAD to be some level of mental illness and blazing insecurity for someone to create such an elaborate fantasy life when it seems like it was so unnecessary. I wasn’t as close to my person as you were to yours, but I was left with a profound sense of sadness that he felt he couldn’t be his authentic self around us. We were a nice and accepting bunch (and he didn’t have anything that would warrant “acceptance” even!) and would have loved him with our without a backstory of struggle.

          1. Despachito*

            Thank you for your kind words, Bossy Magoo!

            The rational part of me knows that this was absolutely on her and not on us, and I am sort of glad that it definitely added some happiness to her life that she could at least for some time be perceived as being the person she dreamt about being.

            In retrospect, I am glad that managed not to break this illusion for her other group of friends, and that they still perceive her as the person she wanted to be seen as.

            But my heart still feels a bit of the sadness you are describing, and your last paragraph is so spot on.

      2. roll-the-dice*

        I am very sorry for the loss of your friend. She was very fortunate to have you during her illness. In her defence, she may have used the elaborate story she concocted as some sort of coping mechanism to do with her illness, but it is certainly quite an involved tale.

        If it is any comfort, an old friend of mine – let’s call her “Jane” – joined an online hobby-based group during an extremely difficult time in her life. Jane was admittedly going through a lot when she joined this group (including having recovered from an extremely serious, potentially fatal, illness), and eventually ended up telling the hobby group about her illness…but telling them it was her twin sister who had been sick, not her, but that she hadn’t survived.

        When Jane told me about it, years later, she told me that she felt incredibly guilty about misleading her friends, and that she had no idea why she did it. She even showing me the chat logs, and I could see it was done in a moment of panic when the members of the hobby group were arranging an in-person meet-up she couldn’t attend due to a follow-up medical appointment. But she didn’t want to admit it was an appointment to do with her own brush with death, so she said the doctors wanted to check she didn’t have any signs or symptoms of what had killed her twin sister.

        Jane clearly felt quite wretched about it, and she was not someone who was prone to lying. (I’ve known her since we were kids and she seriously had trouble pretending not to know about surprise parties, and keeping Secret Santa arrangements quiet!)

        But I saw it as her doing something that is very typical of Jane: not wanting to be a burden, and not wanting to seem like she needed help or attention. I think it was also her way of processing her grief, and of mourning the “old” Jane that existed before the illness.

        1. Despachito*

          Thank you, this is a very interesting insight of how human mind works.

          And I can sort of understand your Jane’s motivation – perhaps not wanting to be tagged as “the survivor” and symbolically cutting off her “sick life” from her “healthy life”.

          Anyway, when I permitted myself to vent about “my” Jane (which I do not do with our common friends, just with my hubby, who shared all this with me) it sort of freed the space for me to realize that on the other hand, I owe her some of the most beautiful moments that happened in my life, and that I am genuinely grateful for that.

  27. DJ Abbott*

    There’s a documentary series on Hulu called The Con, hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, that came out last year.
    The first episode is about a woman in NYC who met an Italian doctor… they fell madly in love, traveled, planned to get married in Italy… He said he would make all the arrangements and sent her pictures and videos…
    And it was all a lie. He made no wedding arrangements. He had another family in Spain all along. She caught on and confronted him at his other family’s house.
    Makes this story sound very familiar…

  28. RagingADHD*

    I am stuck on the details that a) one of the coworkers knew the mom, and b) the LW and her coworkers all piled in the car to drive to the mom’s house to invite her to a shower.

    That’s just so very, very strange. If one of them knew the mom, did they just not speak to her at all for the entire time this charade was going on? Did they never call her up to express sympathy for the grandaughter’s illness? Did they never have a conversation about the supposed trips to Italy, or the excitement of the engagement? How did they not know Lysa was never married and never went through a divorce at all?

    And if they were just distantly acquainted, and didn’t speak to the mom for a year or more or have any conversations about these extremely important life events, why on earth would they show up totally unannounced in the middle of the day with a carful of strangers?

    Who does that? Who brings a bunch of coworkers for a drop-in visit to the home of someone you barely know?

    Lysa isn’t the only one in this story whose behavior makes no sense.

    1. PT*

      It’s entirely possible that Mom knew her daughter is a liar, and didn’t want to jeopardize Lyssa’s job, so she nodded along and changed the subject as quickly as possible.

      Mom may have been doing this for *years* before the coworkers even met Lyssa. Doesn’t bring it up on her own but nods along to save face when she has to.

      One of my good friends has a sister with bipolar disorder who goes on far less interesting adventures when she is having a manic episode. She is an adult in her late 30s? maybe early 40s, and their parents just roll with it very calmly and graciously when they get dragged into it. Of course there is some family friction due to determining where the line is between “parental grace towards a child with special needs” and “you’re playing favorites!!!” but the logic of both sides makes sense, it is just a tough situation.

      1. RagingADHD*

        How do you “nod along” when someone you know socially asks how your trip to Italy was, or what your dress looks like for the upcoming wedding, or how your granddaughter is handling chemo?

        You either have to say “what are you talking about?” or actively make up some kind of matching lie, totally off the cuff.

        And if the mom was just going to go along with the lies, why would she blow the story this one time?

        There is no logic here.

    2. Two Dog Night*

      This was discussed to death on the original post. Three people went to visit the mom, and apparently it’s an environment where family and coworkers mingle all the time. The mom knew that they’d been given her address and were going to get in touch. I mean, it’s not something I’d do, but it’s not *that* weird.

      1. RagingADHD*

        They mingle all the time, but never have any conversation about major, life-changing family news?

        It’s not that one or the other is so wierd by itself. Some coworkers socialize with each other’s families, and know each other well enough that drop-in visits are no big deal. And in that context, you’d expect some kind of conversation or contact about all this big family news.

        Others are slightly acquainted and wouldn’t have occasion to speak for a year or more, and aren’t on such terms that they’d express concern or sympathy directly. Or even send good wishes through the other point of contact – the husband who worked with Lysa’s mom.

        But in that case, it would be very odd to drive to her house instead of sending a note or calling to invite her.

        It’s the two together that are weird – no prior conversations about things that are a huge deal, plus casual drop-ins. It’s mixed up.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Did they invite you by mail/phone/email, or did they show up en masse at your house at a random lunchtime?

  29. YoungTen*

    This letter should’ve been tilted “how to respectively work with someone you no longer respect”

  30. Jonquil*

    It depends on where you live and local laws (I don’t fully understand how it work in the US), but if she was accessing carers leave to take her daughter to appointments etc without it actually being needed for caring purposes, it is actually quite a big deal for the business (especially if she used forged documentation). In Australia at least, if you want to take more than a few days of sick/carers leave, you need a medical certificate. In the case of a child with cancer, most managers would at least want to see a letter from the treating oncologist if they needed to sign off on anything more than 3-5 days off work. If the employee forged the letter from the oncologist, that is fraud, and in most places a fireable offence.

  31. yep*

    As Alison says, you need to be 1,000,000% positive that Lysa has been lying about all of this before you even think about doing anything. Especially if you are only basing this assumption that Lysa is lying due to her mother’s word that she is.

    I’d also be very cautious about using a phone log as hard evidence for Lysa being a liar: do you have access to the correct information in the phone log, and all the information? If she was talking to him on her cell phone, you certainly wouldn’t. Is the phone system reliable in the first place? I’d also be extremely cautious to jump to conclusions that Lysa’s daughter was never sick unless you are one of the medical doctors treating the child and you know for sure that it’s all untrue.

    Lysa may also have been lying about her mother, rather than her child, fiance and so on. That is, that Lysa may have been saying that her mother was involved and approved of her engagement to either cover her own hurt over a bad relationship with her mother, and/or to avoid having to explain that to her colleagues. Her mother may also not approve of the relationship, and is wanting to punish Lysa for it.

    As Alison says, it could also be Lysa’s mother who has the issues. I have a current colleague whose father pretends that my colleague’s partner of more than a decade literally doesn’t exist as he doesn’t approve of the match (to the point of saying that my colleague is single). I also have a past colleague whose mother disowned her and as a result, the mother denies that my former colleague is married with two children.

  32. lilsheba*

    We had a co worker like that! She did way less work than everyone else, and couldn’t remember anything that she ever trained on repeatedly. She was irritating everyone with what we perceived as extreme slowness. But then one day she said her son had a stroke and was in the hospital, on life support. So of course we all felt bad about that and cut her many many breaks. Then after a few weeks he “died”, because the life support was pulled. We felt horrible about that and while she was still irritating work wise we figured she could get a pass for a while. Well more time went by and eventually she was let go for bad work performance. Turns out, that whole story about her son was a lie. Every last bit. Now I’m so mad for feeling bad for her, I mean who does this?

  33. boop the first*

    Hey, I gotta respect anyone creative enough to make up stories at work to keep it interesting…

    I gotta draw the line at bereavement leave and pooled gifts of COURSE, I’m just greatly amused at the idea of people just casually misrepresenting themselves in wild ways.

    It’s the phone calls that creep me out. That is so bizarre!! No one cares so deeply about the fine details of a coworker’s life enough to need to stage fake phone calls and flower deliveries! :O

  34. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    I have known at least three pathological liars in my life, and you cannot process them with a normal brain. “Normal” people will tell occasional lies. Pathological liars lie all the time, about anything and everything. They lie when it’s easier to tell the truth, they lie when it’s easy to disprove their lies, and they double down on their lies when they are confronted. They never own up to the lies. They simply move on to a new group of victims when they have burned all their bridges.

  35. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    The way so many commenters are bending over backwards to make Lysa not be a liar is exactly what the Lysas of the world count on. Stop struggling to find a plausible explanation, and believe the likeliest thing, which is that she is a chronic liar. They exist, and they fool good people into believing them.

  36. SassyAccountant*

    My best friend’s new “friend.” Told her he was one of the inventors of Linux. He’s the same age as us (early 40’s) so he was what? 12-14 years of age when he invented it? Also you can’t just look up his name to find this out. It only comes up if you do a special kind of background check. Which apparently an animal shelter did when he was being vetted to adopt a cat. The lady who did the check gushed over him because he’s famous to those in the know. Also he was recruited out of HS by the US government and he’s traveled all over the world but lived at home with his parents until my friend bought him a condo……

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