Your Lying Employees Can Cost Your Business a Fortune (and How to Stop Them)

BlogHR Advice Posted: Monday 3rd July 2017 by

In 2016, Kelsey Whitehead, a secretary from Hull, fooled her employer, spouse, friends, and family into believing she had metastatic osteosarcoma – a type of bone cancer. The web of deceit was so detailed that her employer funded £5000 in private hospital treatment and almost £10,000 in sick pay. The court has ordered her to pay back just £1 in compensation after determining that she has no assets. A 12-month suspended sentence has also been handed out.

Although an extreme case, Whitehead is not alone. In 2011, a 48-year-old potato processing worker admitted to defrauding his employer out of £13,000 by lying about having testicular cancer. And in 2013, a 31-year-old teacher was struck off and jailed for six months for lying about the terminal illness of a young child in her family – a scam that cost her employer more than £100,000.

Of course, most workplace lies are much smaller and less harmful but can be damaging all the same. According to Forbes, some of the most common workplace lies include:

Lies of exaggeration – an employee who embellishes their capability

Lies of omission – an employee leaving out a critical piece of information, such as being fired from their last job

Protective lies – to prevent the hurt feelings of a colleague, even if the lie could ultimately damage the reputation of the employer

Destructive lies – lies that destroy trust by spreading poisonous rumours about another person in the workplace

White lies – readily forgiven or overlooked, but still enough to throw a spanner in the works.

The problem for employers is that everyone lies. It is a fact of human nature. So how can you prevent it from costing your business a fortune?

Strategies for Catching a Liar in Your Business

Beef up your recruitment process: Catching out a potential liar who can be harmful to your business can be done before they even step foot in your workplace. Strengthen your recruitment process by thoroughly checking qualifications and references, and if possible, always check social media and internet profiles as this will give you an insight into their life outside of work.

Create a culture of honesty: If your business isn’t honest with your employees, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. To create an honest workplace culture, encourage open door policies, be fair with wages, set clearly defined job descriptions and internal process parameters, don’t have favourites – and if you do, make sure to treat them in exactly the same way as other members of staff. If your business is honest, your employees will respond in kind.

Be aware that the customer is not always right: Remember, everyone lies, and this includes your customers. Sometimes when a customer comes to you with a complaint, it is not always the fault of your employees. Respect your staff by fully investigating complaints and grievances.

Hold Liars Accountable: No matter how good someone is at their job, if you catch them lying to you, you must make them accountable for their actions. Seek advice from an HR professional and get your facts right before approaching them about the lie. Whatever you do, do not allow liars to get away with it, otherwise, it will send the wrong message to your entire business.


If you need support with workplace policies, our HR experts are on hand to answer your questions.


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