Leadership

Here’s why you shouldn’t confront a liar in the workplace, according to a woman who catches liars for a living

Dealing with a liar in the workplace can be frustrating. As an employer or manager your first instinct may be to confront an employee who isn't telling the truth. However, it's best to wait until you have all the facts so you can get to the root of the lie, says Pamela Meyer, an author and certified fraud examiner.

In her 2011 TED Talk titled "How to spot a liar," Meyer says that "lying is an attempt to ... connect our wishes and our fantasies about who we wish we were, how we wish we could be, with what we're really like."

But dishonesty does not belong in the workplace, Meyer tells CNBC Make It. "Society and companies work better with a set of morals on the ground," she says. "Deception gums up business negotiations."

For example, Meyer says more than half the hacks performed on a company are done with the help of someone on the inside.

Thomas Samson | AFP | Getty Images

However, even if you suspect an employee of deception it's best to keep mum initially. "Until you've decided if you're going to fire them don't say anything," Meyer says. "Even if they've done something morally repugnant."

Meyer suggests that company leaders address dishonesty through an open, nonjudgmental conversation. First, she says, get the employee into a private room. Meyer says a person is more likely to open up to you in an intimate private setting.

Next, ask questions in a way that minimizes the situation so the employee isn't immediately on the defensive. "Don't make them feel threatened," says Meyer. She suggests asking open-ended questions because they sound less accusatory and don't seem like they come from a place of moral superiority.

Meyer says that the ultimate goal in discussing an issue with an employee should be "to get to the bottom of the story and to find out the truth." She adds that people often lie to avoid being punished or to get out of an awkward social situation, so a dishonest employee will only lie further if they feel threatened.

Engagement Manager, office manager
Thomas Barwick | Getty Images

As a business leader, if you see that there is a widespread culture of deception at your company, you should use the employee to help you get to the root of the problem. But "wagging your finger at [an employee]" won't make the person open up to you, says Meyer. She suggests you ask probing questions that lean more toward curious than interrogative.

Finally, ask the employee if there's anything else he or she has to say at the end of the conversation. That way the person is able to express their side of things, says Meyer. That may result in them giving you the answers you were looking for.

Meyer emphasizes that squelching dishonesty companywide is much more important than the initial "gotcha" when dealing with a liar (or liars).

"Deception is an incalculable cost of business," she adds. "So think of every level where you can inject honesty into an organization."

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See also:

6 ways to tell whether an employee is lying

How understanding the way your brain works can help you be more successful

Here's a major way introverts can score a promotion