What To Do About A Co-Worker Who Lied About Me?

Question:

My co-worker wrote an email to my boss and copied her boss stating that I was a “lying”. I was not and have witnesses to prove that I wasn’t. However, I object to her email which was offensive and defamatory to me. Should I report this to HR? Can I report this without repercussion to me?

Signed,

Truthful and Upset


Answer:

Dear Truthful and Upset:

If a coworker accused you of lying, you probably will not have to bring it to anyone’s attention–they will bring it to yours! However, it is important, in any circumstance to make sure that you approach this in a way that presents you positively to others.

Write a letter to your boss with the full details of the situation, including witnesses. In this letter be clear about what led up to the conflict or situation and also state why you think you are being accused of lying. Avoid an angry accusatory tone and instead keep the tone of shock and concern about your reputation as a result of this unfounded allegation.

If her email was unncessarily insulting, state that and say that you think she has stepped outside the bounds of appropriate conduct for good teamwork. If you have never been involved in a conflict with her before, mention that as a way to point out your own good behavior.

A major point is to be the one to ask for a full investigation of this matter. Say that your ethics and your reputation are crucial issues to you and you do not want anyone to doubt you or your truthfulness. Thus, you would like HR or someone else to interview the people who can verify your truthfulness and show that your coworker was herself untruthful and harmful to your reputation.

Unless this has happened before and seems to be purposefully false, it will probably not be considered harassment. If you do not lose your job or position of trust over it, it is likely not going to be considered defamation of character. At the maximum it will probably be considered discourteous or simply a mistake on her part that she had better not repeat again.

That will be frustrating to you I’m sure, but the nature of her statement may have a lot to do with it. For example, if she says you were lying, but it is her honest opinion that you were, she would likely not get in trouble. If she did not specifically say you were lying, but instead said you exaggerated greatly or skewed the truth or twisted the truth, etc., it will probably just be viewed as an employee to employee conflict and they’ll warn her about it.

Whatever the situation, your first action should be to ask to have this investigated, or at least ask that you and your witness get to make a statement about it.

The important thing is to be firm but not mean-spirited about it or demanding some punishment that probably isn’t going to happen anyway. You should not have any negative repercussions if you approach it in this sincere and honest way. Just be professional and let others jump to your defense. Your boss may have suggestions for how to handle it and may help you in the situation, if you have a good working relationship with him or her.

I hope this is helpful for you as you develop a plan of action about this matter.

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.