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What is the Worst Thing Someone Can Do at Work

Tim Williams's Profile

I just had to deal with a few of my colleagues as they had done one of the worst thing anyone can do at work, lie. There was an issue, and when investigating what happened I saw a few colleagues go into CYA mode, and try to lie to me. Of course I am dealing with it, but I am not sure I see a future for these people at our company. I wanted to get other's thoughts on what they feel is the worst thing anyone can do at work. I few other disturbing behaviors I have witnessed over the past few months include people flying off the handle before having all the facts about a situation (reacting in anger), and constantly having a negative attitude and complaining at each and every turn.

Answers

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Sounds like you have a morale problem that is manifesting it in behaviors that further damage morale, a downward spiral.

I would try to ferret out the cause of this issue (disease) instead of treating the symptoms first (CYA mode, etc.).

As to bad behavior (is it the worst, no, but wrong behavior nevertheless), I'm dealing with what looks like institutionalized (as it was accepted by my predecessor) of padding the work week with a few hours of OT. What makes this worse, they aren't even near full capacity, where OT might be necessary.

Keith Johnson
Title: Principal
Company: Keith E. Johnson CPA PA
(Principal, Keith E. Johnson CPA PA) |

I agree. It could even be the poster Tim. Not saying he is, but did he take a close look at his own communication style. Are his employees afraid of him. He could be the morale problem.

Anonymous
(CFO) |

I agree. Telling lies is the worst of work sins. It's a precursor for every other sin.

Lie, cheat and steal.

Based on my own experiences, if I had the authority, I'd even fire liars I personally liked. If someone is willing to lie, what else are they willing to do?

Anonymous
(CFO) |

In such situations you must decide based on a further proliferation of such a culture - do you fit in or do you want to become one of "them."
I recently left a flourishing CFO post as my business partner was not only cheating the expense statements with submission of personal expenses, but proceeded to throw his PA under the bus for submitting what he gave her. All "white lies" as the art of confusing your superior and "selling" some opaque story buys time and sympathy as you can never really nail them down. Once we found out by investigating, I raised the alarm bell, and bless them, shoot the messenger for raising what was against corporate policies. "Trust" was broken as a business partner you become submissive to "doing anything and everything" for your BP. Even if lying is present.
If you don't have a supportive infrastructure in HR, who may as well tell you who they are favoriting, then the finance principle of FIFO comes into play. Fit In or F*** Off. It all ends up to be a personal decision at the end of the day. I chose to continue to value my values and go.

john scotson
Title: CFO
Company: Hotdocs
(CFO, Hotdocs) |

I have had a employee at my prior company invent fake invoices and try and claim through expenses ( which his line manager had signed off, with out checking), Fraud is a more material threat for a CFO (me).

lying is very a grey area, siting next to omitting relevant / material facts to argue your point. Agency Theory exists at some level, no matter how far you go down the Corp ladder.

Every year when staff management put forward their request for staff pay rises. There is clearly embellishment from some line managers, generally the one recommending's pay rises all round, that could be deemed lying but we call it acceptable business risk, :)

Lyle Newkirk
Title: CFO
Company: Corrigo Incorporated
(CFO, Corrigo Incorporated) |

It looks like there are two sets of bad behavior, both of which you should try to get rid of if you can.
Lying to cover up mistakes is usually not a one time thing and possibly a symptom of other issues.
Your most dangerous employee is the high performer with ethical challenges.
As for flying off the handle, it only takes one troublemaker to undo the good work of many others.
The best employees will lose respect for management if the problems are not addressed.

Keith Johnson
Title: Principal
Company: Keith E. Johnson CPA PA
(Principal, Keith E. Johnson CPA PA) |

Well, after a 20 year marriage with someone who would get mad at a drop of the hat and nag, the main lesson is, if you don't want people to lie, then don't make them afraid of telling the truth.
People lie for one simple reason. They fear the consequences of lying more than the actual act they are trying to cover up. So that begs the question. Do you as a boss, get angry too quickly.
The way out of this is to openly communicate with your reports, and let them know they have nothing to fear professionally by giving you a straight up, honest answer. Give them a guarantee that if they did what they said they'd do in good faith, and they were honest and upfront about telling you, nothing bad will happen. People, employees, spouses, or whatever, need to feel comfortable in communicating. If not, then you're partly the problem.
Again,.make no mistake, people who actively cheat and steal (and those who lie about about it) should not only be fired but thrown under the prison. I am talking about people who are trying hard, doing their best, but problems just come up. People who are always working in good faith should never be afraid to come to you and explain a problem.

Tarun Joshi
Title: Manager
Company: Deutsche Bank
(Manager, Deutsche Bank) |

It is the method of investgation which is important. Is the boss trying to understand the problem or trying to prove how smart he is (and others are not). They also fear the outcome of the issue. They generally dont lie if they have faith that the boss will take care of the issue and will not target them. Is the boss himself calm and composed or afraid of the outcome of the issue. Issues will happen and everyone knows about it. Yet at times employees hide it, in fear. I have come accross such bosses. There are also lemons who lie easily, and must be fired. If however, there is a bunch of such liers, then you may want to introspect.

Keith Johnson
Title: Principal
Company: Keith E. Johnson CPA PA
(Principal, Keith E. Johnson CPA PA) |

I'll agree with that. The people who lie easily and as a habit should be fired. But those who fear the boss will target them and who will lie to escape that if they acted in good faith are not to blame.

Tarun Joshi
Title: Manager
Company: Deutsche Bank
(Manager, Deutsche Bank) |

As regard the worst behaviour, I feel sexual, emotional harassment is the worst behaviour.

Anonymous
(Consultant on Marinas) |

Fostering a culture that doesn't advance passed bad water will spiral negatively. Promoting a positive atmosphere will allow for forgiveness and future betterments. Most people want to get rewarded for their performamce without infractions. However, its those infractions that can be noted for evaluations that will help you decide rewards. By increasing the knowledge what you care about will allow for easier times.

Anonymous
(Controller) |

Stealing or fraud would have to be the worst offense.

I have a current situation that is on par with lying, lack of trust. I have reason to believe an employee has been accessing and maybe copying confidential employee information; payroll and HR records. This is not an attempt to steal, just being nosy about what others earn. I have installed a security camera in the hopes of catching them in the act with video proof.

If I were advising someone else, I would say this deserves immediate termination. However, when dealing with it in person, an otherwise good long term employee, should I fire them knowing how devastating it would be for a single, mid 50's accounting clerk.

Audrey C
Title: Controller
Company: Conveyco Mfg Co.
(Controller, Conveyco Mfg Co.) |

While the employee obviously shouldn't be doing this, why does she have access? How about getting a new cabinet with a new lock? Bad internal controls are also at play here.

Keith Johnson
Title: Principal
Company: Keith E. Johnson CPA PA
(Principal, Keith E. Johnson CPA PA) |

I agree with Audrey. Obviously, she should not be doing this, but if its a matter of just being nosy and no attempt to steal or hack. The first thing to do is improve controls. Restrict her access. If that stops her, go no farther. You'll see her true colors at that point. Unless you can prove something egregious happened, don't even it bring it up.
If the behavior continues, then you start down the road of warnings that you need to document before you fire her.

Bob Farkas
Title: Consulting CFO
Company: Crestview Associates, LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Consulting CFO, Crestview Associates, LLC) |

The worst thing I ever experienced was an employee coming to work with a rifle and going cube to cube shooting people. After that, the rest of misbehaviors seem less troubling. It is revealing that you considered deceit rising to the top of the scale of people doing bad things at work. Besides a crazy murderer, I can think of many worse things. So, maybe reconsider the seriousness of this misdeed.

Anonymous
(Senior Consultant) |

I've seen this from both sides. You might ask yourself if they are covering for each other. Nobody wants to throw someone under the bus, and if they do, they are not the type of employee you want to keep. Probably even worse than a liar is a sociopathic narcissist who enjoys bullying.

But your problem is the liar. Ask yourself if you've been fair in the past when someone reports the truth. If you tend to kill the messenger, you create a hostile environment where subordinates may not feel its to their advantage to tell the truth. Are your customers bullying the team, putting undo pressure and timelines on them (that you support) and instead of the team telling you its your fault, prefer to dance around the issue. Some people are not as good at politically correct speech.

There are so many ways this could play out, but you must exercise introspective in order to really get to the truth.

Anonymous
(Managing Partner) |

Fire the liar and set the example. Lying is the ultimate sin in the workplace and should never be tolerated. Other issues can be dealt with with counseling, probation, etc. etc. but lying is unforgiveable. If someone doesn't have the courage to tell the truth, no matter what the consequence, then they are not an employee you want to corrupt the rest of your team. You must set an example quickly and send a message to the rest of the employees that lying will NEVER be tolerated.

Anonymous
(CFO) |

I would love to agree. But I'm pragmatic. In a career spanning more than 30 years, I've seen more people get let go for exposing a liar than I have liars being terminated for their misdeeds.

That occurs because, people - higher ups in this case - don't really give a hoot unless their ox is being gored. They have no dog in the fight. So, they just throw the barking dog out.

Brandy DeWilde
Title: Assistant Vice President
Company: Comerica Bank
LinkedIn Profile
(Assistant Vice President, Comerica Bank) |

This is a very interesting discussion. I think those who feel you should automatically and immediately fire the liar seem a bit fast at the trigger to me. Each situation is unique and should be handled accordingly. If people are angry with a negative attitude and now you have found liars during an investigation, I think you need to look from the top down for the issue. That's too many problems to ignore management’s influence. Great post.

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

The culture of the company is what the CEO and the C-Level executives make or build it to be. You should decide if you want this type of behavior to continue or not and recommend a course of action to the CEO. I just hope that in your investigation, the HR (and maybe later on, your legal counsel) is/are involved and documented everything. Appropriate and justified action for the behavior should be your guidepost. If you are going to take action (fire), make sure your company's ass is covered.

Personally, trust is an important aspect in working with people. The company eventually suffers when the working relationship between people is compromised.

(Agent, JKS Solutions, Inc.) |

I hate liars. I worked at a large international and basically I was told that everyone lies so I would have to deal with it. It went as far as for other managers to stand right in front of you and say they didn't do what they did when you held the evidence in your hand. Basically if you have a lying and tattle-tale culture you can only clean house and start over but that might be easier said than done. You need to vet and test those around you and have frank conversations with your staff. If anyone lies, put that in their performance review, and it will quickly start to change. Sometimes all you can do is hit their wallet if you want to see significant change particularly in the ethics department, but then ethical issues will continue to squeeze out in other areas as retaliation, so pick your war, or escort them to the door.

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