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Being accused of lying by your boss can create a highly inflammatory situation and may lead to a hostile work environment. Your response to your boss depends on many factors, including previous working relationships, size and structure of the organization and the accuracy of your boss' accusation. Regardless of the situation, it's important that you remain calm, think rationally and do not react emotionally. Your future with the organization could depend on your response to this situation.
Listen carefully to the accusations made by your boss. While listening, remain as calm as possible.
Ask clarifying questions. If there is something that you do not understand, your questions should address these points. Inquire about the source of the information. Request proof of any wrongdoing.
Consider whether there is truth to the statement that your boss is making. Is what he is saying truthful or is it unfounded? Your next actions are dependent upon the veracity of the statement.
The Accusation is True
Apologize to your boss. Whatever your excuse, what you did was wrong. Your apology should clearly state that you understand you are at fault.
Explain your actions. If there is an excuse--and there are only a few that are acceptable--state your case to your employer. If you lied about bad traffic making you late for work because you were embarrassed to admit a fight with your spouse, say so. It's inconsequential. However, if you lied about your hours, expense accounts, harassment of another employee, or to a client, you really need to justify what you did.
Prove that your lie was for the good of the company. If your lie was intended to keep the peace with a client or to make your boss look better--or even to cover for a co-worker's mistake--admitting to the lie and explaining your rationale may make you look more competent in the boss' opinion.
Ask for forgiveness. In cases of inconsequential lies that are not work-related, this may be sufficient. However, be prepared to be put on probation or given a suspension.
Make amends. Talk to your boss about what you need to do to prove your trustworthiness to him now. Make extra effort in your work to help redeem yourself.
Accept the consequences. Even though you have admitted your lie and apologized, the fact remains that you lied to your boss. Depending on the legislation in your state or your employer's personnel policy, this incident may lead to termination with cause.
Document everything to prove your case. Being accused of lying when you didn't is challenging. Your best recourse is to provide proof to your boss that proves that she's wrong about this.
Provide performance-related documentation to challenge claims of poor or unprofessional behavior. If the lie was based on your work ethic, then past reference letters, performance reviews or thank-you letters from customers will help support your actual work.
Ask to directly confront your accuser if the information came from someone else. A mediated discussion may help resolve the situation if it stems from a misunderstanding or a conflict between you and a co-worker.
Contact your human resources department (if in a larger company) or your union steward (if a unionized workplace). These representatives will help you maneuver your way through the system and provide direction.
Consult your personnel policy, as well as state and federals law to see if there is any possible recourse, especially for hostile work environments.
Hire a lawyer who specializes in employment law. If you feel you have been wrongfully dismissed or are suffering in the workplace because of your employer's accusations, a lawyer may be able to help you get redress.
Based in Toronto, Tanya Gulliver has been writing professionally for more than 20 years. She is pursuing a doctorate in environmental studies focusing on catastrophic disasters. She was first published as a pre-teen, co-writing a weekly events column for her local paper where her goal was to frequently mention her friends and family in the paper.