Can I Be Fired For Lying In An Investigation?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about lying:

I work in retail where a customer phoned the shop complaining about my colleague how he has no idea what he’s talking about and how he needs to be trained. I apologized for what happened but told him that my colleague had said the right thing by directing him to customer service. The customer then told me I didn’t know what I was talking about and that I need training. Out of frustration I said “If that’s the case maybe you should apply for a job as a trainer and train us.” The customer asked for the manager and asked me my name. I told him I was the shop floor manager at the time and gave a name of the assistant manager who had left the company. The customer made the complaint and in the investigation I denied I said any of those things as I was scared I would lose my job. So, my manager said she will do a follow up as to what happened. At the second interview I started saying the same thing as before, but then I put my hands up and said “OK, I did say those things.” Then I explained that I was in a bad state of mind with family issues and the reason I lied in the investigation was because I was scared I would lose my job. Now my manager says she will pass it on to case management and let me know. I’m really worried. Do you think I could get fired?

Signed, Worried

Dear Worried:

The people above your manager and your company’s HR section, will probably consider several things when they make their decision about what happens: 1. Exactly what was said by you and by the other person and how that fits with the company policies about customer service at the employee level. 2. Whether or not this has happened before–either the way you handled an unhappy customer or the fact that you told an untruth when asked about it. 3. How dependable you are, usually. That could include attendance at work, punctuality, trustworthiness, work product and the performance ratings you have received. They will also consider your usual way of responding to supervisors and managers and if you are usually a good communicator. There is no way of knowing what the case manager will recommend or what upper level management will decide, without knowing the total package of information they will be reviewing.

Even with a perfect work history, your company could decide this has been serious enough to not keep you. Or, they could decide they would like to give you another chance. I wish I could say something to fix this situation, going back to the phone call–and I’m sure you do too. I doubt there is anything you can do now except wait for a decision.

There is a temptation to avoid talking to your manager right now, out of embarrassment. But, this would be a good time to make sure your manager knows how committed you are to doing a good job in the future and how sorry you are for what happened. If you have had problems in the past, it may be too little, too late. But, if you have been a great employee, with a reputation for honesty, friendliness and good customer service, maybe your manager will support you when she has the chance. Best wishes to you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens. We’ll certainly be hoping for the best outcome for you.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.