Ask Our Experts: I Think an Employee is Lying to Me, Should I Fire Her?

Each week, we ask our experts to answer a career question on behalf of our readers. This week's question is about an employee's questionable absence:
"I manage a medium sized company and I had an incident recently. An employee took off without informing me. On third day of absence, I contacted her and she told me her mom passed away and that funeral will be in 2 weeks time. "I sympathized with her, but then I got info that a close family friend of hers had no knowledge of her mom passing away (and he lives few doors away!). I asked her for details of funeral, as company wanted to send a wreathe and some of employees wanted to attend, but she had all sorts of excuses and kept stalling. "Now, after 2 weeks, she just came back. I realize it's a sensitive matter, and want to handle it accordingly and in the right way. Might I also add that she has a habit of taking off regularly. I would really appreciate some advice; I'm new in manager position." - S
Here's what our approved career experts had to say:

Review Company Policy

"It sounds like it's time to review company policies related to work absences and bereavement leave," says career expert Amanda Haddaway. "You may want to institute a policy that includes language about 'job abandonment,' meaning that after a specified period of time, the employee is considered to have resigned."

Lay Down the Law

"Based on what has transpired to date, you can’t do anything if she has lied to you about her absence," says career expert Dorothy Tannahill-Moran. "But you can determine what is an acceptable amount of absence, for any reason, and communicate that to your entire group. You will then need to keep track of it and give people warning when they are nearing the termination level. This should help deal with her future work absence. Your job is to have a policy, communicate it and then administer it consistently."

Go to the Top

"This is a problem that needs addressing immediately," says career expert Ben Eubanks. "I would get your HR person involved and talk with the employee about this being unacceptable behavior. Let her know that if she needs to take time off it should be scheduled according to your policy, and if she does not provide substantiating documentation for her time away from work, she could be terminated for insubordination. If you let something like this go, especially as a new manager, you'll never have a chance to fully regain this person's respect as a leader."

Don't Accuse Her of Lying

"It can be dangerous to assume an employees is lying to you, although in this case it appears that she is," says career expert Bud Bilanich. "Don’t suggest that she is lying to you. That is beside the point here. The point is that she should be at work when she is scheduled to work, or to inform you that she is ill or has a family emergency early in the first day of her absence... Inform her that the next time she is absent without informing you she will face the consequences that are spelled out in your company’s policies. If you don’t turn around her behavior, you should begin the termination process."

Follow Company Policy to a Tee

"As a new manager, it's incredibly important to follow policy to a tee with your employees, as your superiors are watching your ability to run a tight ship," career expert Kristin Johnson says. "It doesn't help your reputation to have an employee taking advantage of lax enforcement of attendance policy. Just so you don't think I'm incredibly harsh, developing a supportive culture is the sign of a good leader."

Add an Emergency Absence Policy

"In my opinion," says career expert Shell Mendelson, "you have been far too lenient with this employee, particularly with regard to past behavior. If you don't have a policy in place, you might want to consider adding something regarding notification within 24-48 hours of any emergency and written confirmation upon return from an acceptable source such as a doctor. This may sound harsh, but unfortunately, as a business, can you afford to allow these situations to continue?"

Give Her the Boot

“I can tell you’re a compassionate person but you’re not doing this girl any favors by second-guessing what your gut is already telling you to do," career expert Teena Rose says. "There seems to be no respect on the part of the employee. She left work unexpectedly and without permission. She lied about a death in the family. She failed to return back to work in a timely manner. Unless there are signs that the employee needs professional counseling, I believe the best response is to fire her. How you handle this employee will teach other members of your team how to interact with you, so be cautious of being too kindly.”

Reevaluate Your Qualifications for the Position

"I’m sorry, but my guess is that you were promoted to manager before you were ready," career expert Bruce Hurwitz says. "There is absolutely no question what needs to be done. You need to be reassigned and she needs to be fired. Taking time off without permission is an actionable offense. She should have been written up previously." [poll id="33"] Employee lying image from Bigstock

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