How do I manage an employee who has lied to me?
I have a new hire that, just days short of reaching his six-month probation period, lied to me three times in one conversation. While verifying progress on a pilot program that was his sole responsibility, I asked three project-specific questions. There was no chance of miscommunication because the questions were: Did you do step 1 and how did it go? “Yes, easy process.” Were there problems with step 2, entering the data? “No, all went well.” Did the equipment work after the step 3 check out? “Yes, working perfectly.”
I discovered his lie; the customer called in wondering when he was coming to do the pilot, I asked him why he lied and his response was, “I was embarrassed to tell you I had not done the job, and I was planning on doing it the next day and then ran out of time before I left for vacation.”
I gave him a “Decision making day off” with pay, asking him to provide me with a plan on how he proposed to regain my trust. I explained I would not micromanage him if he chooses to stay with the company. He returned to work with a check and balance plan (micromanaging) which I rejected and he promised he would be perfect in his performance. I stated there is no perfect employee and that standard was impossible to achieve and I only wanted his best effort everyday.
We agreed that he would sign a last chance agreement (any future work rule violation could result in termination), his pending pay upgrade would be put on hold, and the disciplinary action would remain in his file for five years. I believed our frank discussion and his commitment to my expectations would result in him being a conscientious employee and decided to keep him employed.
The very next day, he was 15 minutes late because he had to drop off his child at daycare, a task his wife normally did. My VP overrode my request to dismiss him, based on a unique situation of snow covered roads that morning and our #1 corporate goal - safety first.
How do I manage him going forward?
I think your VP is being overly generous and has put you in a tough spot. Since there have been no real consequences for any of these serious offenses during his probationary period, he will now believe that he can get away with even more. The question is: can he?
The lesson learned in this situation may be that your VP wasn’t adequately briefed prior to overturning your decision to fire him. Or, perhaps your VP is trying so hard to be the nice guy, he or she is blind to the pitfalls. In any event, since your company’s safety first rule trumped your desire to put an end to this charade, you will have to wait for the next opportunity to fire him—and you’ll surely get one based on his behavior so far.
He has unbelievable gall to lie to your face, let a customer down, and then fail to complete the pilot because he was going on vacation! What about this situation says he has any regard for the customer, respect for you, work ethic, or has any personal integrity?
As you are well aware, most people who really wanted to keep their jobs after signing a “last chance agreement” would get up a little early on a snowy day and get to work on time! I expect his future excuses will be Oscar-winning performances.
The fact that you didn’t let him get away with an action plan that forced you to micromanage him is admirable, but the fact that his alternative plan was to be “perfect” just underscores how glib and manipulative this guy really is. I would demand another specific plan if I were you and I wouldn’t let up until I got one. I would also extend his probation for another few months so he can’t think he is off the hook.
Before he pulls another fast one, get an agreement from your VP that he will be on a very short leash. He has not given you any reason not to micromanage him—and any freedom you may have promised is null and void after this series of events. He has clearly not earned your trust so you should micromanage his performance so you can not only see if he truly can do the job but to protect your company from additional customer complaints. You owe him nothing. So far you have done all the bending. It’s his turn to prove he shouldn’t be fired.
Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist.
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