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You Asked: My Coworker Expects Me to Lie on Her Behalf

Dear Sugar,

I am a receptionist at a successful company and the woman in the position above mine is bending our office rules and I don't know how to handle it. She's not my direct supervisor, but she's the one that gives me my breaks. Lately, she's been coming in late, and since I am the only one up front, I'm also the only one that sees her sneak in — she always asks me not to say anything. Recently my boss asked me directly if she was coming in late and, of course, I didn't lie.

Today she needed to leave early yet again and asked me to lie to our supervisor as to why — she said it was because of her son, but in reality she was having boyfriend problems. I don't want to get in trouble on her behalf and I feel like it's inevitable that our bosses are going to figure her out. It's a really close office with only six employees, and I don't want to get a reputation as a tattler, but I don't want to lose my job by helping her lie! What should I do?

— No More Lies Lydia

To see DearSugar's answer,


Dear No More Lies Lydia,

I'm sorry to hear that your coworker is putting you in such a compromising position by asking you to lie on your behalf — obviously this is not a healthy or comfortable scenario to deal with day in and day out. Since it is such a small office, you're right to guess that your boss will find out about your coworkers sneaky behavior eventually, and it's important that your own values aren't questioned when she finally does.

When dealing with uncomfortable job-related problems, you must maintain your professionalism no matter how trying the situation may be. However, it's equally important to deal with matters before they get out of hand. Though certainly it is your boss's responsibility to make sure her employees are following company policy, I always find it better to approach the person in question directly, before escalating the issue all the way to the top.

Next time your coworker asks you to lie, let her know simply and directly that you will no longer be able to lie on her behalf. If she responds by continuing to abuse her power over you, make a log of it, and take it to your boss. When you talk to your boss, keep your emotions out of the conversation and instead focus on how her behavior wreaks havoc on your productivity and work day. Once your boss speaks with her, it's likely her behavior will improve, but don't expect her attitude towards you to change. Try to keep your chin up — you can't control her, only your reaction to her.


Join The Conversation
josephine88 josephine88 9 years
Everybody's advice here is absolutely sound - there is nothing to add. Just tell her "The reason for your absent/early leave is not my concern, you will have to take this up with management as it is not in my remit."
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 9 years
Don't lie for her because it could cost you your job. Tell her next time she does it that you feel uncomfortable lying for her and don't want your job to be in jeopardy. Don't let her convince you it's okay and no one will care, stick to your guns. She doesn't have any right to ask this of you. If she holds it against you than you need to talk to her supervisor about her behavior.
sass317 sass317 9 years
Its not "tattling" if your boss askes you directly, and why should she get to show up late and leave early when everyone else is at work? Tell her you wont be able to cover for her anymore bc the boss is asking about where she is and its putting you in an uncomfortable position.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
bella said it best
kayla74 kayla74 9 years
You might THINK she's your friend, but she knows you have the power of lying on her behalf so of course she's nice to you. It's easy to let ourselves believe everyone is as nice as we are, but they're just not. And if she was really your friend, she wouldn't ask you to lie for her and jeopardize your position there.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
If you lose your job will she pay your rent? You have your answer.
Liss1 Liss1 9 years
I totally agree with Lickety! :)
Marci Marci 9 years
Don't ever lie for anyone because it always comes back to bite you in the butt. When someone asks you to lie, just tell them you're a bad liar and aren't comfortable with doing that. And when your boss asks you a question like that, tell him/her that you're uncomfortable being put in the middle.
Anenimenie Anenimenie 9 years
I think you got lots of good advice to go on here :-) I totally agree, you can just tell her in person that you don't feel comfortable lying for her and rather not get involved. And of course you tell your boss to ask her directly rather than through you :-)
lauriegilbert lauriegilbert 9 years
Its never worth losing your job over someone else's slips of protocol. I hope everything works out in the end, hopefully the coworker will figure out what she's been doing wrong and stop leaving early?
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
lickety, good idea!!
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 9 years
I agree w/ lickety too.
MissChita MissChita 9 years
I agree w/ that lickety split
lickety-split lickety-split 9 years
the boss needs to leave you out of her issues with this employee. i think the next time the boss asks it's fine for you to say "i don't know why she left but i will tell her you asked" and for the employee "please either give me notes to give the boss, regarding your reason for leaving or tell him directly". you aren't getting paid to supervise this person so why are you expected to do it. perhaps your boss could start asking that employee to start her day and end her day by checking in with him.
justanerd1975 justanerd1975 9 years
just remember people like her won't think twice about you when your long gone, having lost your job because you were to afraid of her higher position to say 'sorry, if someone asks me I won't get into details but I'll have to let them know you left and I don't know why." Don't let her intimidate you, she has probably used others to lie for her and will do to the next person sitting in your spot at your office if you leave....
Amariya Amariya 9 years
I agree with the advice. Don't put yourself in a position where you could lose your job.
Kimpossible Kimpossible 9 years
I agree let her know in no uncertain terms that you will not lie for her. And I also agree that if she continues to take it to your boss. I used to have people want me to lie for them at work and I would always refuse. I didn't make a bunch of friends but I kept my job, and kept it alot longer than they did. And only ever left a job on my terms, not because I was told or asked to leave. Integrity is so important imo.
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