You lying asshole.
December 14, 2012 8:15 AM   Subscribe

So I'm on a performance plan at work due to dishonesty. Please help me turn this around.

FWIW, I'm already in therapy. In my personal life I'm a very honest person and have close friends, loved ones and a fantastic partner who I live with.

In my professional life however, I've somehow entered a bad habit of telling white lies. The only thing I lie about is excuses either not to come to work or to cover me so that I can work from home.

I work a high-power, high-stress, high-type-A, high-anxiety job. My team is ok, and my boss I view as supportive but flakey. My boss is a big proponent of face-time, so I have to commute 50 miles to and from the office each day I'm expected to be there (yes, 100 miles each way) and it's just a lot. However, almost all of what I do can be done virtually, and we already work with folks in other offices across the country and other members of my team work from home freely - yet me and my three peers who report to my boss (we are middle managers, she is a Senior Director) are not able to do so. I've tried talking to her about this, I've proposed a standing "Work from home" day on a day where I don't have many meetings...it works for maybe a week and then it goes out the window with my boss and suddenly she's back to being corporate. I literally get up, go to work, come home, log back online. My personal hobbies are suffering, my social life has gone down the gutter, and I'm becoming a bitter and angry person to the detriment of my relationship with my boyfriend. It sucks.

Anyway, this is all weighing heavily on me and I've started calling in on random days and making up excuses to work from home. This has been happening for about 9 months now and I make excuse after excuse after lie - my car broke down, I got a flat tire, I have a doctor's appointment, I have to pick up my sister at the airport, the dryer broke. My boss has been questioning me about these excuses which lead to a more elaborate story to cover it up - oh, she's flying back from Denver, I have to have a root canal, I don't have AAA and don't know a tow truck to call....it goes on. And it's bad! I'm not a liar and this is killing me.

So. Everything blew up in my face recently. I lied to get out of a luncheon by saying that I had to bring my dog to an emergency vet visit. I texted my boss this about an hour before the luncheon. She managed to find out through a combination of my colleagues I'm sure that I don't have a dog. She confronted me face to face yesterday about it and at first I tried to stick to my story when she questioned me about the vet visit, but then she point blank told me that she knows I'm lying and is putting me on a performance plan.

However, she also said that my actual work is impeccable and amazing and I could be great if I dropped the bullshit. She also thinks that my team could benefit from more positive thinking and can "feel" leadership.

Obviously, I'm devastated and feel like I'm living in a pressure cooker. I told her that I want to turn this around because I love my job (I do) and I like my team (I do) and want to remain with this company (I do!) but we need to rebuild trust. I also told her that the commute is killing me and demanding a lot of energy as well as the logging in after hours and such. I was honest with her, it felt awful after deceiving her the entire time, but I told her that I want to fix this and be trustworthy and earn her trust and fix our relationship. It's true.

How do I turn this around? Quickly? :(
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (53 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Move closer to where you work.
posted by kpmcguire at 8:18 AM on December 14, 2012 [24 favorites]


If it is the commute you hate, would it be possible to move closer to work?
posted by michellenoel at 8:19 AM on December 14, 2012


Yeah, first, move closer to work. And second, do what your boss is telling you to do, and drop the bullshit. It'll blow over.
posted by downing street memo at 8:21 AM on December 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Trust takes a long time to build but can be demolished in seconds. In other words, you can't turn this around quickly. If you want to continue in your current job, you have to put your resentment to the side and show up day after day. If,on the other hand, the commute is killing you, you need to either move or find another job.
posted by jasper411 at 8:22 AM on December 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


Two big issues for you to look at.

The commute. Move closer. Or start reading audiobooks. Don't log in and work after work. Get a hobby or a haunt and do that instead. If you're legitimately busy doing something else when work calls after work like that, then the excuses you're giving aren't bullshit.

then it goes out the window with my boss and suddenly she's back to being corporate.

Why does 'it' go out the window? What's the cause of that? This is a really vague part of your question, and I think if you consider it a bit and see how you'd describe the issue in more detail you might be able to figure out how to handle the seeming whims of your boss better. Understand why she needs you to be there then and why she's abandoning your previous arrangements. She probably has her reasons. Or she's being flaky. It seems like you've had some good luck talking with her about related issues, if you could go back to her with a proposed solution (in addition to or supplementing your current performance plan). "Hey, boss, I've been thinking about this performance plan and I think I'm going to need some help with parts of it. Here's what you can do:...."
posted by carsonb at 8:27 AM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


You rebuild trust slowly, unfortunately. You have integrity in the small things, so that you can be trusted in the big ones. It takes time.

It sounds to me like the root cause here is your commute. You have to figure this out because if it is driving you to lie, it's a big problem for you one way or another. This isn't just something you can power through: you've been powering through it, and your subconscious is making you lie to get out of it. You have to address this.

So: you move closer to work. Or you figure out a way to make the commute less stressful -- you carpool, you take the train or bus instead and read / nap / listen to whale songs on your iPod so your commute feels more like "you" time and less like "unproductive working" time.

Or you talk to your boss about how you want to be able to work virtually more days / week. She may not feel like letting you do this right now because of this trust issue. You have to respect that.

You also have to take this commute issue seriously. This situation is going to give out in short order unless you find a way to fix it. You can't power through. And you're not weak for not wanting a 100-mile commute. That's crazy, and there are actual studies about people's quality of life and their commutes. You're normal. Accept this limitation and change your life. Then you will rebuild your boss's trust.
posted by gauche at 8:28 AM on December 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Another solution is to get an apartment close to work to stay at during the week. This only works when your commute is more expensive than the apartment/hotel room though.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:30 AM on December 14, 2012


You rebuild trust by not lying anymore. As jasper411 wrote, that can take a long time, but there's no way around it.

As for the underlying stress: you have too much going on in your professional life: a stressful, demanding job AND a long commute. Something's got to give. If it's not going to be your ability to keep it all together, it has to be the commute or the job.

Can you move closer to work, as others have suggested? If not, can you arrange your work hours so you're commuting when there's the least amount of traffic? Even if that doesn't save much time, it can save a lot of stress. If your commute involves the freeway, can you drive a little slower than the average traffic speed? I find it's a lot less stressful to be passed than to be in a hurry and always trying to pass the other drivers; adding 5 minutes to the commute might actually make it a lot less stressful.

Or: can you negotiate less time working from home if you're already coming into the office five days a week?
posted by brianogilvie at 8:31 AM on December 14, 2012


You can't quickly turn this around. You're going to have to rebuild trust with not just your boss, but your team/coworkers.

In your shoes, I'd either speak to my boss again about remote work, move, or get a new job. I know that none of these are easy in practice but what you want (to be able to work more from home, not work after hours) does not match the style your boss has dicated (face time) or your job demands (no strict 9-5 schedule, it sounds like). Even if your work is, as you've said, impeccable, it may be more difficult to convince her that a day or two working remotely per week is a good idea. What did she say when you told her how you felt?

also told her that the commute is killing me and demanding a lot of energy as well as the logging in after hours and such.
The first part is totally understandable, but the second? While annoying and draining, may just be par for the course for your "high-power, high-stress, high-type-A, high-anxiety job" and it may not be negotiable.
posted by sm1tten at 8:32 AM on December 14, 2012


Yeah, you really have no choice but to show up, do your work, and play the game. What other people in other offices get to do is irrelevant. You don't make those decisions.
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:32 AM on December 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think you need to address this explicitly with your manager, probably during the conversation where she discusses your performance improvement plan with you. You should address the issue directly (while not copping to any more lies that they haven't confirmed to be untruths).

The idea here is that you need to address the cause as well as the symptoms if you want to progress beyond this. You also need to make your manager understand that there's something beyond the symptoms and that you're engaging with that directly.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:32 AM on December 14, 2012


Well, first, it sounds like you are really, really bad at lying, so if you need extra incentive to stop, you should stop because it doesn't sound like you're getting any better at it. I don't know if you can tell or not, but getting "caught," in this scenario wasn't a failure in an otherwise flawless web of lies but was just the breaking point of a whole lot of really poorly-thought-out excuses (and I can only assume the cover stories are even worse.) You can be devoting this mental energy to many, many other things. Things you are good at.

It sounds like your boss is happy with everything except the bullshit, which means while fixing the root of the problem isn't particularly easy -- most people can't just pick up and move without breaking a lease, or waiting for it to expire, or selling/buying a house, or renting it out and renting another house -- not losing your job means you just need to start showing up to it. It doesn't sound like you have any performance issues when you show up. Your straits are not particularly dire if you can summon the willpower to get to work long enough to figure out how to move, or find a new job.
posted by griphus at 8:35 AM on December 14, 2012 [12 favorites]


If you love where you live and don't want to move, you can stay overnight at a hotel near your work. Are you given enough notice of the Face Days where that is practical?

Work the evenings on the hotel days if you must, but not the home days. If you are going to work the home evenings you might as well move closer to work.
posted by BeeDo at 8:38 AM on December 14, 2012


Your job requires being physically present -- whether you agree with that or not, that's the way it is. Either figure out how to make that work or find a new job that is more logistically appealing for you.

(And talk to your therapist about coping mechanisms that work better than inventing injured pets.)
posted by cranberry_nut at 8:42 AM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Once you have broken trust it's pretty much done.

Once you are on a *performance plan* you are pretty much done.

Something here does not add up.

Next job move closer to work.
posted by rr at 8:44 AM on December 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


You are incredibly lucky that your boss has given you this opportunity to improve your situation. Give up on the working from home, you've completely blown that possibility for a long time. If she can't trust you to come to work and not lie about it on a regular basis, then she certainly can't trust you to work from home. This may sound too strong, but your commute issues are YOUR problem and you're going to have to grow up and deal with it in a mature way. Figure out your priorities here and commit to what's important to you, without ensnaring your manager or your team. Personally, the commute complaint sounds like just another bullshit excuse to me, and at this point I bet will also sound that way to your manager. To me, it sounds as if you like your job, you just don't want to do it on a regular basis. There are so many easy ways to fix the commute issue, I'm finding it hard to believe that it's really the problem.
posted by raisingsand at 8:45 AM on December 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not a liar and this is killing me.

What word would you use to describe someone who tells falsehoods for nine months, including making up a fake dog? Do you even have a sister? Please stop this denial if you wish to reform yourself and restore your employer's trust in you, of which she probably has zero. I think that you should count yourself very lucky that you still have your job. Such a sustained pattern of dishonesty would cause most employers to fire you.

You want this turned around "quickly", and while the intention is admirable, trust doesn't work that way. It takes time to restore. So, the first thing to do is to stop lying. This should be easy because you appear to be a very bad liar, and if you keep lying, you are going to be caught again sooner rather than later (and your boss is already on to you). Come to work in the office like your boss wants. I know you said she is flaky, but you were vague about how. Your dropping out of a luncheon an hour before was certainly flaky, though.

If the commute is motivating you to lie, you need to solve the problem of the commute. You can do this by either (1) moving closer to your current job (2) getting a new job closer to your abode or (3) making the commute less of a chore. You seem to want to keep this job, so your choices are (1) or (3). If you are renting, (1) is much more likely than if you own your home. Perhaps living quarters are more expensive near your job, but you can factor the reduction of commuting costs into the calculation; using the IRS mileage figures as a guide, your 100 mile round trip costs you $55.50 in gas and other costs in operating an automobile.

I have a long commute, although not as long as yours. I choose to use option (3) by making the commute my valued alone time. As the father of two children who works full time, I have precious little of this, and my 40 minute commute each way is time I use to make personal calls, collect my thoughts, listen to podcasts on topics of interest to me, or practice my passion of foreign languages. That doesn't make the commute the highlight of my day (although sometimes it is), but it at least serves not to make it a chore. If you don't make the commute a problem, it's not going to be a problem.

You should probably start looking for a new job, too, because I don't think you're long for this one.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:46 AM on December 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


I've somehow entered a bad habit of telling white lies.

This is a very telling sentence -- from these words, it's clear that you don't believe you are responsible for this situation and don't remotely believe you're actually the one who created this mess. It's not your boss's fault you live so far away from the office. It's not your boss's fault that you chose a position that requires after-office hours. It's not your boss's fault that she can't trust you because you lied to her, and more than once.

Who made these decisions? You did. Just you.

You need to do a 180. Stop resenting your boss and your workplace for decisions YOU have made, and think, really think, about whether you truly want this job, or truly want to stay where you're living. In your shoes, I'd be so humiliated by these ridiculous, solipsistic actions that I would bow out gracefully and pick up whatever pieces I could elsewhere, closer to home. Your boss is a freaking saint to see the silver lining in all of this.
posted by mochapickle at 8:47 AM on December 14, 2012 [36 favorites]


If you're on a "performance plan," you're pretty much toast. I'm sorry, but I haven't worked in an organization where this wasn't the case. I would start making as good an impression, coming in to work and not asking for ANY time from home for at least 6 months, but honestly, whenever I hear "performance plan," that's shorthand for, "being transitioned out."

I'm sorry about that. Lying to your boss doesn't work out.
posted by xingcat at 8:49 AM on December 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


If you chickened out of the luncheon an hour before, that must have been at 11:00. How would chickening out of an event at 11 in the morning get you out of a commute? Either you were already at work, in which case you'd already had your commute, or you were supposed to be in already and hadn't turned up.

It looks like you're even lying anonymously to us about what you're really lying about. I was going to say your boss sounds quite unreasonable about not letting you work from home (probably too late to go back in time and handle that better, but still) but when you say stuff that doesn't add up, it's obvious that there has to be more to it than you're telling us.

The way you can turn this around is to stop lying to yourself first.
posted by tel3path at 8:54 AM on December 14, 2012 [11 favorites]


If one of my staff lied to me on a regular basis it would be deal breaker for me.

She put up with this for nine months? I'd have had you on a PIP ages ago. I'm am a lenient boss and liberal with telecommuting because I have a high trust team. The lying thing would make you unsuitable for the culture of our group.

A PIP isn't always the end of the road. I've certainly had people who've had a performance improvement plan and managed to turn it around to become successful employees. However, those people nearly always had performance issues that could be resolved with training, mentoring, job aids, etc. Lying is, well, difficult to get train away.

I'm not saying this to give you grief, but to encourage you to think through your options with this company. If you really want to stay with the company perhaps look at an internal transfer. Your boss and your team know the deal. You're going to be shaky ground in that team for a long, long time. An internal transfer might be your best option.
posted by 26.2 at 8:58 AM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not proud of it, but I've lied to get out work so I could get more work done. A commute just makes everything exceptionally more stressful with an already high stress job. When you are on a deadline, hours of unusuable time is just going to make life miserable. I've learned that I CANNOT have a long commute. Maybe this is the lesson you can take away from this.
posted by murfed13 at 8:59 AM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow, I totally disagree with the haters.

Don't hate yourself or feel bad. In some ways this is a small act of civil disobedience, whether you/others see it that way or not. It sucks to commute so much, and in some ways it's your human right to not stupidly and exhaustingly suffer for no reason at all, just because someone in power is making you suffer. Working conditions suck in general / throughout history, and even if you're not in all out slavery (not to diminish slavery) there are jobs that are forms of wage slavery. I, as a human being, have found myself in situations where I CAN FUCKING NOT sit at a desk for another n-hundred hours and listen to my buzzing computer and feel like shit. It's not tenable. At the same time, there is no possibility to get out of it and keep the job longer term which I need to eat and live. So, I disobey.

Not all countries have working conditions like ours. Americans work a hell of a lot. Not all jobs are like your job. Etc. Sure, it's not the worst, but the comparison with other people or other situations doesn't matter. To me it seems like you got to a situation that was just untenable for you as a human, in order for you to feel ok. You took shortcuts and disobeyed, and you are now suffering the consequences.

The long term plan is not to therapize yourself because you are somehow an awful person, it's to acknowledge that your working conditions are untenable and try to make that practically change. (Closer commute, new job, whatever.)

In the short term, play nice with your boss, don't lie anymore, don't bring it up, follow the rules of your discipline whatever they are. Just keep things positive. Don't put anything negative in writing. The usual. Whatever you do, though, don't beat yourself up or let others beat you up. The best thing to do is just to try to turn this around as constructively as possible.

Also don't listen to stuff like, "You're toast." Keep it positive. Yes, look for new jobs. Yes, communicate positively with the boss. If you get fired, you get fired. You can sort of prepare for that by applying out, but it's best to just mostly deal with being fired if and when it comes up.
posted by kellybird at 8:59 AM on December 14, 2012 [27 favorites]


To be clear, I have a lot of agreement with kellybird. I think you were driven to lying.

But as I said, the way you tell your story makes it clear that you're lying to us, and now I can't trust your account of what's really going on. I have visions of it being way worse than you made it look.

Fortunately I'm just an Internet stranger and it's no skin off my nose. But if I were dependent on your doing what you say you'll do on a daily basis, I might find this alarming.
posted by tel3path at 9:06 AM on December 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you can't move closer, then you need to change jobs. It might be easier to contemplate changing jobs now, since things seem likely to be awkward.

My advice is about the white lies. Pretty much everybody uses them, but the unspoken rule is not to push it. You use them sparingly, because they pile up. Your peers who are also not allowed to work from home? They surely notice how often you're slithering out, and may well be annoyed about the unfairness, and very likely pointed out your lack of dog-having.

Lie to your strengths. When you must lie, use something that actually exists. You know that now, but honestly, even if you hadn't been busted for no-dog-having, it would have been something else, and soon, because you got a little greedy and did it too much, and your colleagues weren't fooled by all your little mini-crises, even if your boss was.
posted by tomboko at 9:09 AM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


1) Yeah, PIP at your level means you're pretty much cooked. No way back, you are done there. She likes you, is happy about the work you do, so you are being given time to find a soft spot to land. Take advantage of it.

2) This is a good thing, as you hated the job because of the commute, or you weren't in love with the job enough to put up with the commute. It was either a bad fit, or becoming one. I mean, a vet visit when you don't even own a dog? That's you deliberately trying to get you fired, right there... and it looks like you succeeded. Let go, calm down, do a great job in the next few months while burnishing your resume and shaking down your social and professional network for a new gig.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:09 AM on December 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


When your boss put you on a performance plan, was it actually a performance plan? Was it in writing, did it have concrete things that you needed to do on it?

Or did she just basically have a 'come to Jesus' meeting with you?

Either way, expect no raise at your next review, and no promotions.

This is pretty big. Lying and absenteeism are terrible for the workplace. While you have great skills and are good at your job, these things smack of entitlement.

If your boss wants you in the office, then that's it. You have to go in. This isn't debatable, and it may not be a whim. Clearly she has a very good reason to need to see you in the flesh, even if it's just to confirm that you're actually sitting at a computer doing something. (Something productive, like messing around on Metafilter.)

One thing I would do to rehab this is to show up every day, without fail, early. I would move closer to make this no big deal.

You should be devestated, you did a pretty terrible thing, and not for any kind of a good reason. You did it because you didn't want to go to work.

This attitude you have, being bitter and angry about something that is within your purview to change (the distance you commute) is killing your career.

You can hang around and see how it goes, but within 12 months you'll know whether or not you've killed your opportunity for further growth in your organization.

You will not believe how shit like this can haunt you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:13 AM on December 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


It sounds like your boss is happy with everything except the bullshit

No, the boss is also not happy with the employee's desire to work from home or any sort of modern telecommuting arrangement. Your big problem was not just the lies, but the fact that your lies sucked (you invented a pet dog?). In fact, you would have been no worse off coming to some kind of face off with your boss over telecommuting ("if you value me as an employee, you will let me do this, otherwise I will find an employer who values me more and functions like a modern corporate environment"), but you've screwed that pooch now.

Your work is "impeccable", and you're obviously good at what you do, so my suggestion would be to keep up your impeccable work and find a job with a more enlightened attitude towards remote working. Unfortunately, the long commute is going to make this more difficult because it will cut into your jobhunting time. Keep up the good work and don't give them any excuses to fire you, but the hobbies and the social life are going to have to be out on hold for the immediate future while you spend all your spare time making a lateral move in your industry.
posted by deanc at 9:23 AM on December 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Moving closer might not be an option for the OP. I have an hour and a quarter commute each way into work, which is stressful, crammed and tiring - especially as I take medication which makes it very, very difficult not to sleep through my alarm - but I can't get around this because I just can't afford to live in the central zone of my city, not even if I had sixteen roommates. If you have children at school or other things keeping you tied to an area, like negative equity, moving isn't as simple as it sounds.
posted by mippy at 9:25 AM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not all countries have working conditions like ours. Americans work a hell of a lot. Not all jobs are like your job. Etc. Sure, it's not the worst, but the comparison with other people or other situations doesn't matter. To me it seems like you got to a situation that was just untenable for you as a human, in order for you to feel ok. You took shortcuts and disobeyed, and you are now suffering the consequences.

Even here in Dutch social-democratic utopia managers in high-power Type-A jobs work quite long hours, if they compound this by inflicting a long commute on themselves, they have only themselves to blame. There is no component of this that is the fault of the system, this is not a low-level drone breaking their backs for subsistence wages and it is comical to somehow blame American working culture for this behaviour.

OP: In the short term, your attendance needs to be perfect.
In the long term you need a job closer to home, this boss will never let you telecommute now that you've lied to them. You should aim to do your job well enough to keep it until you find another one but you've scuppered your promotion possibilities at this company and should move on.
posted by atrazine at 9:29 AM on December 14, 2012 [13 favorites]


disagree that the performance plan means you're done, based on what you've told us about what your boss said. of course, if you're lying about it... just kidding. the trust thing is meaningless, just stop lying and you'll be fine. and honestly, the more you stress yourself out about "reestablishing trust" and etc., the more likely you will be to lie in the future. lying is a maladaptive response to stress - you can either lower your stress, or change your response, but if you do nothing, you'll just backslide. the very first thing you can do is to not make your own stress worse by imposing a bunch of one-sided conditions on yourself - must be perfect - must get this person to trust me - blah-blah - won't work, will stress you out.
posted by facetious at 9:32 AM on December 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I know you say you want to stay at this company, but it's probably time to start looking for a new company. If all your colleagues also know you've been lying, it's not just your boss that you need to rebuild trust with, it's everyone. It's going to be face time all the time. It's already ruining your relationship with your boyfriend? Get a job closer to your home.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:32 AM on December 14, 2012


I doubt you can turn this around at all. "Integrity" issues (in quotes because this is pretty stupid) are considered serious even if the aren't. I doubt this will ever actually be "forgiven" regardless of what your boss says, and if it's documented, it will follow you even if every manager above you changes.

Start looking for a new job.
posted by spaltavian at 9:33 AM on December 14, 2012


You should look for a new job, mainly because this one is too far away from where you live, and also because that dog thing is goofy and will follow you. Don't worry about "reestablishing trust." It isn't relevant. She doesn't trust you and you don't trust her either - you don't respect her reasoning or her management style (and I'm not saying you're wrong; just that the conditions that led to this mess have not changed at all, so how is trust all of a sudden going to happen?) Just maintain perfect attendance and look for a new role closer to home.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:40 AM on December 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


As a person who just escaped an extremely long commute (...by quitting), I have a lot of sympathy for you. I felt every single day like my job was destroying my life. Everyone's jumping on you because honestly it sounds like you're a terrible liar, but come on, most people have called in fake-sick at least once. You just made an unfortunate habit of it.

Anyway, you need a new job. Audiobooks and whale music sound good, but honestly, long commutes - especially if you're driving - just don't work for lots of us. An audiobook can't disguise the fact that you've just lost three hours of your life every day - 15 hours a week! 780 a year! - to driving back and forth to work. For me, my commute became an existential crisis. If you're making up dogs, it is for you, too.

So find a new job. And next time, be honest about your needs - to yourself and to your boss.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 9:47 AM on December 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


I apologize in advance if this seems sort of harsh - please understand I am saying the following in an attempt to be helpful.

I had a boss who behaved similarly to you. He called in all the time. He had an hour-plus commute and there was no viable public transportation options open to him so he had to drive. I was sympathetic to a point, but it started to get absolutely ridiculous. Here are some of the reasons he gave me when he would call to let me know he wouldn't be in:

- He was sick. (Cold, stomach flu, migraine, threw his back out and needed to see a chiropractor.)
- He had a flat tire/engine trouble/too much snow on the ground and DOT hadn't plowed/there was a lot of rain and the road was flooded.
- His elderly aunt fell in the shower in her assisted living home and he was the only one who could take care of her because he had power of guardianship over her since she had dementia.
- His mother was preparing her will and he was to be the executor so he had to be present when she was with her lawyer.
- His brother was stranded at the garage after dropping off his car to be serviced so he had to go pick him up.
- His dog needed emergency vet care and his wife had to chaperone his kids' school field trip so he was the only one who could deal with the vet.
- He was getting new kitchen appliances delivered and needed to be home when the delivery truck arrived.

It got to a point where basically there wasn't a single week he didn't call out at least once. He also would arrive about an hour late most days and leave early. He often didn't bother to tell me when he was arriving/leaving so he would miss meetings and then I'd have to lamely cover for him. I wasn't his assistant, I had a managerial job and he was the senior manager I reported to. Covering for him really started to suck after a while. It made me look like an asshole to always have to be explaining his absences to people who were looking for him. We started keeping track of his comings and goings. He didn't work a 40-hour week once in the three years I was at that company working for him.

Eventually he had to have major surgery for an ongoing health problem he'd had since he was in college - or so he said - and so was out for six weeks in the middle of one summer for the operation and recovery. See, I felt the need to put in "or so he said". His lying/absenteeism was so egregious by that point that I didn't believe he was even sick. To this day I kind of wonder if he didn't come up with that as an ingenious excuse to take an extended summer vacation.

Having a boss like this is completely demoralizing. I was doing my work, covering for him to other managers when he was absent, and eventually ended up taking on a number of his tasks because he wasn't ever able to get them done because he was always staying home, or coming in late/leaving early. I could have stopped covering for him, but that would have put my job at risk - our department was integral to operations. Other members of our department grew bitter as well.

He is the #1 reason why I actively sought another job and left that company - despite it being a good job with steady pay and a friendly company culture. A number of senior managers on his level started leaving the company, too, because of this. It was demoralizing to everyone. He was a nice enough guy, and when he did work he seemed to be pretty competent at what he did - but he was ALWAYS concocting reasons to not come in. I couldn't take it anymore. It's been two years since I worked for him and thinking about his behavior is still tremendously frustrating.

I say all this to point out to you that it's not just your boss who is affected by the absenteeism and the white lies. Your team suffers, too, and your fellow colleagues. Undoubtedly they see what's going on. Undoubtedly they are also whispering amongst themselves about how you always invent excuses not to come in. (You'll notice your boss "caught" you after having spoken with your colleagues who didn't think you had a dog - this tells me that it's not just your boss who has an issue with this.)

I cannot reiterate enough how much it sucks to work with/for someone who pulls this kind of stuff.

I sympathize with you about the sucky commute - especially if you don't have a realistic public transportation option. But you need to figure out how to make it work, either by moving closer, taking an apartment/staying in a hotel during the week, carpooling with someone, finding a way to enjoy the commute (Tanizaki has some good suggestions above) or just sucking it up and accepting that you are choosing to live where you live and work where you work. Or take another job closer to home. Negotiating a telecommuting option is not going to happen for you at this point. You've destroyed trust with your boss. And you've destroyed trust with other people in the office, too, even if you don't realize that quite yet.

Apologies for the length. I hope you find a way to make this work.
posted by thereemix at 9:49 AM on December 14, 2012 [23 favorites]


It takes me five hours per day to commute 50 miles each way by car. It would be very difficult for me to move closer to work, where a room in a shared house would cost about two-thirds of my income.

But then I'm not at the level of management, and therefore pay, that you are.

Also I'm allowed to work from home a lot, so I do. At least every other day. We talked about this in the interview. I said I'd move if I had to, while silently praying that I wouldn't have to, and I didn't. If something goes wrong (for example there was thick fog earlier this week) and there are no meetings, I just email to say I won't be in, and I keep on working. In my job, I have no reason to go on some absurd odyssey every single day, just to sit somewhere else.

At your level, you should be able to find a job like this. I think you should start looking for one. If you find yourself tempted to lie about anything at the new job, take a step back and try to reorganize your habits so you don't have to lie.
posted by tel3path at 10:00 AM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only thing you can do to save your job, which should be your immediate goal, is to show up at work every day on time with no complaint and do the work you are tasked to do. Full stop. No hedging, no whining, no nothing. I don't even think you can call in sick if you are legitimately ill - show up full fever anything. Any excuse is suspect at this point so you're going to have to put full on arm-falling-off leprosy in her face if she's going to believe you have the sniffles.

Suck it up for six months and then consider your options, assuming you've not been let go for other reasons because she'd be an idiot not to try to find someone else who doesn't lie to her on a regular basis: 1) find another job with the understanding that you cannot cope with a commute; 2) keep this job, keep coming into work because you've moved closer to the office for another six months.

If you're still there in a year, maybe you can have this discussion again but I'd also see how your other coworkers are coping with this - do they also want to work towards a more lenient telecommuting option? It might help to approach her as a group with a solid plan that works for everyone.
posted by marylynn at 10:07 AM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you are going to continue to lie, at least figure out how to do it well.

Claiming a dog ER visit when you don't even own a dog is just really, really dumb.

If that was the route you went because you had already used up every reasonable lie in your arsenal, that should tell you all you need to know about the amount of lying you've been doing.
posted by toomuchpete at 10:19 AM on December 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


You work at a job under conditions that you can't abide, and can't change.

I don't agree with those who advise you to try to be a more clever liar, because, for one thing, lying doesn't address the central issue: your dissatisfaction with certain terms of your employment. For another thing, if your company places a value on ethical behavior (and some don't), then lying would seem to disqualify you for your job.

Please notice that if you actually had options (regarding terms of employment) you wouldn't need to lie about ignoring rules you find irksome. This is where your actions abuse both practical and ethical considerations. In my view, it speaks well of you that you are uncomfortable with the image of yourself as a liar. I hope you can come to see the dissonance you display by denying it, and as well, come to rethink your options. That the commute is bothersome to you is a valid issue, so it ought not to be buried under a slush irrelevant and counterproductive behavior.

Cutting through all the versions of my viewpoint, and cancelling my notions about the value of ethical behavior, I am led to this question:

What would happen if you simply told your boss that you were not coming into to work every day just satisfy her need for face time?

This is what the PIP is all about.

You may find it helpful to consider whether you need this job more than the company needs you to work there. Make a decision tree, using what terms are relevant: Can you pay your rent with your hobbies? Can you find a job that better meets your needs?
posted by mule98J at 11:45 AM on December 14, 2012


You're not going to turn this around where you are. Find a new job closer to home.
posted by empath at 12:12 PM on December 14, 2012


It's pretty clear to me that this work culture is not a good fit for you. Ya, you screwed up, but if this is an aberration, I would concentrate on getting a new job and focusing on finding a more compatible situation. Length of commute is one of the big indicators of personal happiness, and the fact that you're violating your integrity and your employer's trust is a big symptom of how badly this is for you. Killing yourself further to make this job work is only going to lead to further stress and unhappiness.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:43 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is mass transit an option? It may take a bit longer but at least you could do other things enroute. If not, is there an airport near your job and home? If so, with a $10K electric airplane you could cut travel time down to half an hour.
posted by Sophont at 1:16 PM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Be honest in future, figure out how you can reliably get to work, do your best.

This is simple. It's not easy, but it's simple.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:44 PM on December 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Based on what you are saying, you don't love your job. Your job involves being at the office, and you dislike that enough to lie repeatedly. This is not loving your job, this is loving parts of your job.

If you want to keep the job, than either face the fact that your job is taking away from the rest of your life (which is likely something you will regret later in life), or move closer to work. You would literally gain hours of your life every day by moving closer, have much less stress, and would likely be a happier person.
posted by markblasco at 2:57 PM on December 14, 2012


I disagree with everyone who says that you should show up and do your job and stop whining. The bottom line is: YOU CAN'T PHYSICALLY DO THIS. It's too much for you, and that's why you lied.

So, stop trying. If you got a type-A, high-powered job, you can get another one. It will look good on your resume and you can move into a different part of the industry or with alums from your company somewhere else.

Don't waste your time trying to be perfect at your job from now on. Just find something else.
posted by 3491again at 3:03 PM on December 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I agree with those who say it's probably a lost cause, but... you say your job can be done virtually, your boss doesn't see it that way. Have you two tried video conferencing? So she can see that you are really working, and that she'll get 2 or 3 more hours out of you each day if you don't have to make the slog? She needs you to be close at hand, set it up so you'll answer her phone/vid call ASAP. Ask her to give that a try for a month.
posted by at at 5:53 PM on December 14, 2012


1) Those are not "white lies". White lies are telling people no one will notice that stain they just put on their shirt.

2) In my corporate experience, any manager on a PIP is done for. At your level, in my experience, PIPs exist functionally and almost exclusively as a lawsuit prevention device. Be prepared to be fired, if it doesn't happen, great, but be prepared.

3) Either way, you need to show up work every day now, even when you're sick. Especially when you're sick; you have something to prove.

4) Your story here has more holes than a colander. I'm not sure I believe the stated reasons for your having to work in office - even if you do. Is it possible your boss doesn't trust you to work from home? Doesn't trust that you will actually work?

5) Look for another job, right now, either one that is closer or encourages working from home (the large mulitnational I work for has many divisions and areas - including my own - that encouraging teleworking). On the bright side, being in the office will make those lunch time job interviews much more accessible. Because you are on a PIP, you will almost certainly not be able to get a transfer to a more telework-friendly manager in your current company. You burnt that bridge.

6) Something I feel you have completely neglected from your question is a) how your team-mates feel, and b) how your manager feels.

When someone repeatedly, crappily lies to you, it feels extraordinarily disrespectful. Think about it. You are effectively telling these people - including your manager - "Your needs in a work capacity are not as important as mine. I think you are an idiot because you will believe any cockamamie excuse, or if you don't; I don't even care. The rules that apply to others need not apply to me. I will ignore your requests."

Your co-workers are probably resentful. Your reports may feel like they have an absentee manager who prizes convenience over their wellbeing (your job), and your own manager is probably wondering what else you've lied about, and when they are gonna find out (I certainly would be, no offense, but every serial liar I've met lies whenever it's convenient, not just about transport etc.).

This sounds harsh, it is harsh. I think you have blinded yourself to every viewpoint but your own here. If want to keep this job - or the next one - you need to walk - just a mile, not a hundred - in someone else's moccasins. Best of luck.
posted by smoke at 8:51 PM on December 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


This question has a lot about your relationship with your manager. There's almost nothing about your relationship with your reports. Your team is "ok" and you "like" them, some of them work from home, and maybe your colleagues (not sure if this is team, peer managers, or both) said you don't have a dog.

I'm glad other commenters (especially thereemix) have already brought up the reports' perspective, but I wanted to highlight this:
She also thinks that my team could benefit from more positive thinking and can "feel" leadership.
You're describing a problem between you and your manager. I'm sensing a bigger problem between you and your reports.

I've been a programmer in a high-everything, dynamic environment where our managers were frequently on business travel. It sucked. We wanted them around to answer questions, provide direction, clarify new conflicting information, participate - anything - and they weren't. It was pretty demoralizing, even though we knew they were out for legitimate reasons. I think it would have been even more demoralizing if we were suspicious about the reasons they were out of the office.

Personally, in a high-stress situation, I'm happier when my manager[1] is around[2], even if I don't end up interacting with her for most (or even all) of the day. There's something reassuring about her mere physical presence, and though we have tools like phone, IM, email, etc., nothing beats swinging by to ask a quick question. It makes me feel like she *cares*.

--
1- Assuming a generally competent manager. High-stress + neck-breathing = danger.
2- And even if (hypocritically?) I telecommute myself sometimes. I don't think it's unreasonable to hold the team's leader to a higher standard.
--


As a middle manager, please don't downplay the responsibility you have to your reports. Your question ends with this:
I told her that I want to fix this and be trustworthy and earn her trust and fix our relationship.
Do you need to do the same with your reports? Earn their trust and fix your relationships with them? This may not even be about the lying. Your team may be sensing your frustration with this difficult situation (high stress, long commute, guilt about lying, can't leave work at work, social life deteriorating), and you may be subconsciously taking it out on them. Even being just slightly ruder daily, or showing up bitter after another 50 mile morning commute, or sending a curt late night email... that stuff adds up. It's poison, especially when it's coming from the person who's supposed to be responsible for your team. Your manager's not the only person you should want to keep happy.

As part of your performance plan discussions, I'd consider asking your manager about this. Follow up on her comment about your relationship with your team, instead of focusing exclusively on your relationship with her. Ask her what she's observed, whether she thinks this situation is affecting them too (almost certainly), what feedback she can give you about your leadership style. Ask her for concrete things you can do to improve these relationships, promote teambuilding, and develop your leadership skills. As a manager, you'll want to work on this stuff anyway - and developing that coaching/mentoring relationship with her might strengthen your overall relationship. It might also make a happier team = better environment = more productivity, etc.

And - maybe you did sign up for this, maybe you didn't, but I'd consider bringing up workload again. Work-life balance is important, even for middle managers, and being excessively overworked is unsustainable. Are you over-committing? Can you transition to an "urgent emails on Blackberry only" rule after you leave the office?
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 4:20 AM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't move closer to work. Your career at this firm is toast. Wait to see where you get your next job.

Show up EVERY day. Always. And look for a new job, closer to home.
posted by grudgebgon at 7:31 AM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Get a new job somewhere else, now. Before you're fired and it becomes THAT much harder to find a job. Better to be searching while employed, than not. Otherwise you'll end up with, what? A job that's still too far away with a cloud over you that will never go away. Don't move closer, unless it's too a job at a different place. Time to move on and NOT repeat the same mistakes somewhere new.
posted by wkearney99 at 2:28 PM on December 15, 2012


How do I turn this around? Quickly? :("

If this were six months ago, moving closer to work might have been viable. I'm not going to call you a serial liar; your organization has effectively trained you in this regard and there's a fundamental attribution bias to consider. But the performance improvement plan is evidence this has snowballed too far to recover from. Performance plans are implemented as a precursor to firing someone for cause. If they just wanted to send a message, there are far simpler ways to fire a "shot across the bow." Your boss wants you gone; anything you do now will affect the outcome of the lawsuit you file more than any decision made in the near term.

Your turnaround now is finding a new company. Prioritize work balance and commute time over pay. In this situation, I suppose the real question should be, do you continue your campaign of weak excuses to be away from the office while interviewing for your next job?
posted by pwnguin at 7:54 PM on December 15, 2012


Performance plan is the prelude to being fired. This job is toast. Start applying for jobs nearer home.

Meanwhile, dispute the need for the plan based on your actual measurable performance , ideally via email and looping in HR. If possible, present actual hard numbers that show ways your output is better than other people who are not being put on plan. Imply that it could look like this plan is being imposed to force you out because you are a woman/gay/have a disability/are over 40 etc. as applicable. If the plan becomes a pain to implement and makes more legal trouble for them rather than less, you may be offered severance money to leave freely and not sue.
posted by w0mbat at 1:15 AM on December 16, 2012


« Older How to help child struggling i...   |  What are some good dog boardin... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.