I lied to my boss. It wasn’t a big lie and at the time it felt safer to lie.
Several months ago, I was swamped with projects, and distracted by the pandemic. I let a low priority task sit under paperwork stacked on my desk until too late. When my boss asked me about the project, saying that he knew the deadline was “coming right up or had even passed,” I freaked out inside. I quickly said I’d finished the project several weeks earlier.
Then, I pulled out the relevant paperwork out and quickly completed it, but even as I finished it, I knew that we’d actually missed a crucial deadline and lost out on a deal.
To cover my tracks, I sent my boss a copy of the project with a phony date. He loved what I’d done, told me I’d done a great job and gave me a raise. From time to time he asks me to follow up on this project, because he doesn’t realize it’s “dead.”
I feel like my lie continues to grow and whenever my boss stops by my office, I wonder if and when he’ll learn what I’ve done.
I don’t know what to do. I know it will be better if I admit what I’ve done, but I keep hoping he’ll never figure it out. I’m afraid I’ll lose my job if I tell him know what really happened.
You can’t cover your tracks with a lie; further. Lies and dishonest actions only deepen the tracks already made.
You face a choice—confess and take the consequence or maintain your cover and risk a worse consequence if reality blows your cover aside.
If you confess, you risk losing your boss’s respect and possibly your job, but you stand a chance.
If you don’t confess and your boss learns you lied multiple times, you risk losing his trust forever.
Worse, look at how this has already eaten away at your job satisfaction. Each time you pile lie on top of lie, you further trash your self-respect.
To help you decide what to do, place yourself in your boss’s shoes. Most liars don’t do this; they only consider the situation from their own perspective. Who would you rather work with, someone who feels caught out by a question and says s/he completed a project, tries to cover it up, and then finds s/he can’t live with this falsehood and admits his/her deception despite the potential consequences—or a continued liar?
Confessing gives you a potential safety net. Your boss may decides you made a mistake you won’t repeat. He, like everyone else, remembers how in pandemic days, we all found ourselves distracted.
Lying leaves you flying without a trapeze.
© 2014, revised in 2020, this post was originally published in Solutions. Lynne Curry is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, https://amzn.to/30V5JO6) and “Solutions”, https://amzn.to/2GYlnAN (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.