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How Do You Handle a Pathological Liar at Work?

Have you ever worked with someone who talked about experiences that seemed far-fetched, but you couldn't pin down what was off?  Does that person seem to always have a story with them as the hero or victim?  Do they tell different stories to different people, but never in a group?  You may be dealing with a pathological liar.

A pathological liar is someone who:

  • lies with no direct, objective benefit
  • tells dramatic, detailed and complicated tales featuring themselves as either a hero or victim
  • lies frequently, often compulsively
  • may deal with people one-on-one or in small groups, versus large groups (because large groups may tend to compare notes with each other and identify the lie.)
  • responds to questions elaborately, but vaguely
  • may have different versions of the same story – because they have forgotten what they said

(“Pathological Liar: How to Cope with Someone’s Compulsive Lies.” Healthline, 2018,‌)

Dealing with a pathological liar in the workplace can be exceptionally difficult.  Once you determine that someone has been lying, you need to address specific issues with them and call them out on their lies.  It is best to do this with a witness and possibly recorded, so that they cannot lie about the meeting.  Specific measures must be taken to ensure that the individual does not continue lying.  If the lies have been egregious enough – the individual will need to be fired from the job.  Someone who lies pathologically in the workplace can wreck havoc upon a work environment.  Addressing the rest of the employees about the termination is important, but you need to maintain professionalism.  Some tips:

  • Communicate directly, and quickly – gossip spreads fast
  • The employee terminated for pathological lying may have said many things about the company that aren't true – allow people the opportunity to ask questions.  While you generally shouldn't discuss another employees' personnel issues, you can address questions about other issues.  Employees left behind may fear for their jobs or additional workloads.
  • If someone appears to be having a difficult time with the termination, invite them for a private conversation.  You can let them know that the employee was terminated for cause, but you won't comment on their situation.  Reassure them that there were issues they may be unaware of that prompted the decision.  

Generally speaking, once a problem employee leaves an organization, people start to realize that their work environment is running smoother, and even if they aren't sure about why – they recognize improvement.  


Kathleen Kauth

Kathleen Kauth is President/Owner of K.T. Beck Enterprises, LLC a Mediation and Business Consulting firm which focuses on using Mediation techniques to help individuals, families and businesses resolve conflicts. With areas of interest in Eldercare and Business Mediation, we are able to provide a wide variety of personalized services.   MORE >

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