Gena’s Free Coaching Session: My manager and colleagues caught me telling a lie. What should I do?


Periodically readers bring up thorny workplace situations and ask me, “What should I do?” These “Free Coaching Sessions” are how I document that advice so others can learn from it too.

What is the best thing to do when you make an honest mistake like waking up late for work? What if you have a difficult manager?

The best thing to do when you make an honest mistake is to admit your error and then tell/show how you are going to make up for it. For most of these kinds of everyday SNAFUs, the person on the other end will give you the benefit of the doubt if this is your first or second mistake. However, if you continue to do these things, it is reasonable for the other person to lose trust and feel you are taking advantage of them. The first rule that goes above all others is that people in work situations should aim to be consistently professional and avoid putting their colleagues and managers in situations to have to second-guess what they are doing. Of course, if you have a difficult manager, you may be doing things to avoid incurring their anger. However, it is still true that they are probably waiting to see what YOU will do when you make a mistake. Another issue is that some difficult managers are insecure about their own performance on the job, so reassure a manager like that that your mistake will not negatively affect them.

How do you deal with being caught out lying despite it being an honest mistake?

If you are caught lying, you are now guilty of two behaviors that erode trust (a) the original mistake and (b) the lie. Your colleagues will likely trust you less unless you admit the error and the lie and tell them that you realize you let them down. They will be waiting for you to make amends; otherwise, they will not have your back the next time you make a mistake.