How do I lie to my boss and everone that I work with?
November 9, 2009 8:31 PM   Subscribe

How do I lie to my boss and everyone that I work with?

I want to take a college class for personal and career development (that's unrelated to my current position). It will require me to leave work two hours early one day per week. I don't expect that my boss will have too much of an issue with me making up the time on other days, he's generally very flexible, BUT I'm not sure what to tell him about why I need to take the two hours off. He's going to ask. I need to have a good answer. Telling him about the class is not an option because I don't want him to know that I'm thinking about a career change. Also, I expect that lots of other people within my organization will be curious as well. I'd like to have a specific, believable lie to stick to rather than relying on something that's vague and evasive. Some ideas that come to mind are physical therapy or seeing a psychotherapist, but there are obvious limitations to both -- as for physical therapy, there's nothing visibly wrong with me, and this class is going to be a commitment that lasts for 3 months. As for seeing a psychotherapist, I'd be embarrassed to have to tell everyone.

My other concern is that this excuse should be something that obviously takes priority over work "emergencies." If something comes up at work and they beg me to reschedule, I'd like my activity to trump that.

posted by anonymous to Work & Money (39 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The closer to reality your lie is the easier it's going to be to maintain. Why not just say you're taking a class, but instead of one that's unrelated to your field, say it's something in your field?
posted by floam at 8:36 PM on November 9, 2009 [8 favorites]

Telling him about the class is not an option because I don't want him to know that I'm thinking about a career change.

So emphasize your interest in the subject matter; it isn't as if you're going to get a job in that field in the next few months. Don't go out of your way to lie (and risk being caught out or telling a lie made obvious by inflection or uncertainty), just share the minimum you can to explain the scheduling change. That's all you're obligated to do anyway.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:37 PM on November 9, 2009

Do you have, say, a "niece", who "needs to be picked up at a regular time on a certain day because of her parents' unbreakable obligations", or something similar?
posted by Rumple at 8:39 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

I second inspector.gadget's comment -- there's no bloody reason to lie here. Just emphasize the personal development and not the career development aspect of the whole thing.
posted by paultopia at 8:40 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yeah, lying isn't really a great solution here, if only because you have to remember the initial story you told in order that you don't get caught in the lie later on down the road.

Why not just come up with some explanation as to how the class pertains to the current job, if you're concerned about that.

Frankly, unless the boss is a total ass, I'd think he would be happy to know you're trying to further your own education, whether it leads you to leave his employ or not.

But then I don't know your boss. For all I know he demands utter loyalty and would quickly fire anyone who gave any intimation of ever leaving him. But you don't seem to describe the situation that way.
posted by dfriedman at 8:44 PM on November 9, 2009

You have a standing therapists appointment. You need to go at this time, but will obviously make up the time.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:45 PM on November 9, 2009

physical therapy for an old knee problem or arthritis or something. Doesn't have to be visibly wrong. Just say that it hurts.

Or carpal tunnel or something.

No one wants to hear about your knee problem so no one will ask.
posted by kathrineg at 8:49 PM on November 9, 2009

"I'm taking a Japanese/German/French class because I've made friends with some Japanese/German/French people and I'd like to learn some of their language. Who knows, it might come in handy if we get some Japanese/German/French clients!"
posted by smorange at 8:52 PM on November 9, 2009

Just say it's for personal reasons and that you wouldn't ask if it wasn't important.
posted by inturnaround at 8:52 PM on November 9, 2009 [7 favorites]

I think you're best off telling a semi-truth. Say that you're taking a class, but either don't say what it is or come up with a somewhat vague answer. Let's say your a paralegal and you're taking organic chemistry- just say it's a science class you never got around to taking during undergrad. Keeping up a lie for a long period of time will cause a lot of stress.
posted by emd3737 at 8:57 PM on November 9, 2009

Physical therapy is a fine excuse even if there's nothing visibly wrong. I went through five weeks of physical therapy for a herniated (slipped) disc, but I could walk around just fine, with maybe a little stiffness.
posted by CrayDrygu at 8:58 PM on November 9, 2009

Ask if you can work an alternate schedule (9 hours for 4 days a week and 4 hours on the day you have class is a pretty common one). We have a lot in our office who have this 4 1/2 day schedule to pick up kids, make various appointments, go to committee meetings for church or outside activities, get to the cabin early in the summertime, etc.

In general, excuses involving someone else tend to work better for me and are easier to make up. Needing to pick someone up from a standing therapist/chemo/school/etc appointment will likely be easier to pull off than making up your own medical/therapy issue.
posted by JannaK at 8:59 PM on November 9, 2009

Why even emphasize the personal development angle? Why not let him know about the career change possibility?

I have an employee who enrolled in a program to get a master's in teaching. I never thought twice about it --- it's her life, if she's working toward becoming a teacher, why would I hold that against her?

Give your boss more credit.
posted by jayder at 9:01 PM on November 9, 2009 [9 favorites]

Yeah, you know unless your boss is a real jerk there isn't anything at all wrong with telling him I have a class in X one day a week I need that time off and can make it up as needed in the rest of the week.

I am a boss, and frankly most bosses realize their employees are transitional and that is ok as long as you are a good employee while you are with us.
posted by edgeways at 9:09 PM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you lie and say you're taking Japanese, I would bet my bottom dollar that you will be somehow called upon to speak Japanese in front of your boss.

Seconding (thirding?) just being honest.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:10 PM on November 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

Don't lie, because if it unravels your boss will be justifiably pissed. You'll need to keep up a lie for months which is stressful.

I've had people take classes that I knew would lead to career changes and I'm fine with it as long as they do their job. They are employees, not indentured servants. However, if they lied to me I'd have a huge problem with that.

Has your boss has giving you an indication that he'll be a jerk about it? Tell your boss the truth; you're taking a class.
posted by 26.2 at 9:15 PM on November 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Don't bother lying. Just tell them you are interested in topic x, and are doing a short course on it.

I did exactly the same thing with Sound Engineering, and currently for my Education diploma, and both times my boss has been super-flexible. When I was studying sound engineering he could never even remember what it was I was studying - "How's the IT course going?" he'd ask.

My boss knows that I'll be leaving my current job at the end of next year when I complete my teaching diploma, and far from being angry about it he's gone out of his way to make sure I have time off when I need it for exams or whatnot.
posted by robotot at 9:29 PM on November 9, 2009

I once worked with a database administrator who left early a couplefew times a week to take graphic design classes, which she is now doing fulltime. The company didn't bat a lash.
posted by rhizome at 11:10 PM on November 9, 2009

Yeah I work in IT, but I'm taking Spanish classes. I have to be a bit careful when I'm on call but generally everyone knows that I start my class at 6.30 on Thursdays. If I'm at work, and its 5.30, and I feel like I'm working on something that could carry on past 6.30, I start to mention that I have my class, and everyone accomodates, as I do for my boss when he has to attend his daughters plays etc.

Work/life balance and all that!
posted by Admira at 1:26 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Telling him about the class is not an option because I don't want him to know that I'm thinking about a career change.

I bet you're underestimating your boss here.

There are a hundred things he may think when you lie about this. Actually taking a class, even in something unrelated to your current job, is far better than any of them.

If I was your boss, I'm certain that I'd rather know, myself.
posted by rokusan at 3:24 AM on November 10, 2009

You're getting a lot of spectacularly unhelpful answers here, heh ;) I tend to think that if you don't want your boss to know, you've got a reason - I've also had bosses who would take this kind of thing as a threat and would penalize me in my current position, and if it's a job/career change that's going to take some time to accomplish, you don't need that. I'd go with the suggestion of telling people it's a class you're going to - make it one that does relate to your current field if the nature of the one you're taking will give away too much information and can't be passed off as something you've had a longstanding personal interest in.
posted by lemniskate at 5:13 AM on November 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

I agree with the truthers. Getting caught in a lie throws _everything_ into doubt, so it's best not to risk it on something like this. If you talk enthusiastically and honestly about it, you'll bore him so much that he just wants you out of his office.

"I've always been interested in X, but I never had time to take classes on it when I was in college. I've finally got enough free time to handle the homework and my job. I know I'll never have time to take these classes when I've got Y (kids, a dog, etc). It's such an interesting field. Did you know..."

Plus, most subjects (graphic design, language classes, writing, accounting, law, whatever...) can be tied back into either everyday life or your current job.

Other excuses won't ring true, and so he'll be making up stuff in his head way worse than the truth. I'd rather have my boss think I had nice healthy outside interests than have him think I was going to AA meetings or spending my days at the dog track.
posted by paanta at 5:50 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't lie, or at least I wouldn't lie in such a way that it will be really obvious that you're lying. Therapy, picking up a kid, whatever--somehow it will always wind up biting you in the ass.

You don't have to tell him what the class is for if you think it will hurt your day job, but people are surprisingly accepting of continuing education, even if it's just for personal gain. "It's just something I've always wanted to learn" or "will make me more well-rounded" are absolutely acceptable reasons in and of themselves.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:58 AM on November 10, 2009

Don't lie and you won't have to worry about the myriad ways you need to cover your lie. While you are under no obligation to tell every minute detail of your personal life to people at work, just say that "you are taking a class in your field" or a "self-improvement class". If they want to know more then simply say it is personal and cut them off. If there are work emergencies then tell the boss that this class is a priority and you cannot reschedule. Be insistent about your rights.
posted by JJ86 at 6:05 AM on November 10, 2009

years ago, Cosmo had an article about to lie plausibly after taking a sick day that wasn't a sick day.

the less details the better. so discuss it with your boss how you want, the personal dev angle is the best. don't lie about class material or you may get caught later when asked to speak Japanese/crochet something/develop a site.

as for your coworkers, just say it's personal and you'd rather not talk about it. the rumor mill may fly or people just may not care. they may think you're in therapy. who cares?

just don't lie to coworkers - don't give out any details. you don't want everyone to get jealous that you get to leave work 2 hours early one day a week for a "fun class" and they don't. if you have a friend who is an outside of work friend as well, that might be tricky.
posted by sio42 at 6:20 AM on November 10, 2009

Scenario 1 (most likely)
You: Boss, I've started taking a class that requires me to leave two hours early on [day of week].
Boss: Ok, thanks for letting me know.

Scenario 2
You: Boss, I've started taking a class that requires me to leave two hours early on [day of week].
Boss: Oh? What classes are you taking?
You: I've always wanted to take something technical/historical/artistic/educational, so I'm giving it a try.
Boss: Ok, thanks for letting me know.

Scenario 3 (worst case)
You: Boss, I've started taking a class that requires me to leave two hours early on [day of week].
Boss: Are you planning a career change or something?
You: I'm just taking the class right now, why? Do you think I'd be better off taking a different class?
[open discussion where you nod at boss's suggestions that you will most likely never follow up on ... it's *your* personal life after all]
You: Thanks, I look into those suggestions. So on [day of week], I'll be out of the office a bit early. Let me know if something comes up that needs me to come in to work early, or come back after my class.
Boss: Ok.

Note: It's possible the boss would deny the request, but in my opinion the denial would not be because of the class, but because the boss wanted to pull a dickish power play and not give you time off. So, in my opinion, there's really no reason to lie.

posted by forforf at 6:31 AM on November 10, 2009 [5 favorites]

If you lie and say you're taking Japanese, I would bet my bottom dollar that you will be somehow called upon to speak Japanese in front of your boss.

Which is a problem if you don't speak any Japanese. So choose a language that you know how to say something with. For many people, it takes a long time to get past the beginner stage of language-learning. In a few months, you're not going to get very far.
posted by smorange at 6:31 AM on November 10, 2009

He's going to ask. I need to have a good answer. Telling him about the class is not an option because I don't want him to know that I'm thinking about a career change. Also, I expect that lots of other people within my organization will be curious as well. I'd like to have a specific, believable lie to stick to rather than relying on something that's vague and evasive.

You want your boss to let you work a quite flexible schedule but think that making up a baldfaced lie is a better solution than telling him the truth? This is weird.

Just tell him that you've decided to take classes to further your education. Believe it or not, this is a) not that interesting to other people and b) not anything particularly suspicious. In order to tell the truth, you don't need to tell every single thought that you've had about this particular truth. Just stick to the need-to-know facts when you ask.
posted by desuetude at 6:42 AM on November 10, 2009

I think forforf nails it.

You may need to spin this ("This has always been an interest of mine" vs. "I can't wait to quit this job and taking this class is my ticket out"), but you don't need to lie. And getting caught in a lie over something stupid is a great way to lose your boss's trust and/or get yourself fired.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:03 AM on November 10, 2009

How much notice will you give your boss when you do decide you'll leave? And are you sure you'll want to follow this possible career path?

Be open and honest about your intentions. If your boss felt like you were scheming this whole time, he might be less than positive with anyone who calls about references. You don't need to say "I'm planning on leaving in 18-24 months," but you can say "I'm interested in [this field], and I'd like to take a course to know more." If he does ask about your plans for the future, be honest and say you're looking at possibilities for somewhere down the line.

If you find yourself getting less work than others to the point you're idle and they're busy, talk to your boss again (as long as you're not weeks from leaving). But until then, don't fret so much (unless there's something you know about your boss that you're not letting on). People change careers a lot more than they used to, don't feel bad about that.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:19 AM on November 10, 2009

Give your boss more credit.

What jayder said, exactly. As a manager, I'd actually appreciate the honesty - it would give me time to do transition planning for your position if and when you do leave.

Now, if I was a dick of a manager, sure, I *could* use the knowledge against you in the meantime. But be honest with yourself - how long do you really want to keep working for a manager like that? If that's the case, you probably have bigger fish to fry than taking this class (i.e. getting a new job ASAP).
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:49 AM on November 10, 2009

Is the class in "How to change careers" If so, fudge as far as saying that you're taking a personal development class that that covers assessing and developing your skills, or organization skills, or something bland. You don't end up lying, because the course will cover those things. People will assume the weirdest stuff, so if you give them a hint, their curiosity will not have to work overtime.
posted by theora55 at 8:00 AM on November 10, 2009

It's your boss. Unless you work in a very close-knit, friendly environment, don't give him any credit. His job isn't to look out for you. Just don't use a lie that requires your to speak another language. Physical therapy, family obligation, etc.
posted by spaltavian at 8:03 AM on November 10, 2009

If your boss is cool enough to let you leave 2 hours early one day every week for 3 months, he's probably cool enough to just need to know that you're taking a personal development class and leave it at that.

Save the lying for if you really had to fight for that flexible schedule, like some jobs would have you doing.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:18 AM on November 10, 2009

I would hew as close to the truth as you feel comfortable doing. You never know who you're going to see in the school parking lot. If you are truly uncomfortable telling the truth, I think forfor's advice is good: Only be as specific as you have to be. If you must, you can lie about what the class is about. It could be a computer training class or a statistics class or a writing class or a class in public speaking. Those courses are usually helpful for any career.

If your boss is as flexible as you say he is about your work schedule, he probably won't press you very hard on your outside activities.
posted by bluefly at 8:32 AM on November 10, 2009

Not that you really need another person to say, "Tell the truth," but, tell the truth. It is easy enough to say that you have a personal interest in the subject matter without indicating a career change.
posted by katemcd at 9:39 AM on November 10, 2009

He's asking HOW he should lie. Not IF he should lie.
posted by Zambrano at 10:05 AM on November 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm a journalist. I enrolled in a biology class. I told my boss. I told everyone who asked. I missed the science geekery that I enjoyed in high school, and I wanted to spend of my time being a science geek. No one seemed to object to the "just because I want to learn about this" rationale.

I guess it was a half-lie at the time. I knew I was looking for an escape and needed to start taking classes to help me decide on my escape route. But I did honestly want a mental break to do something completely different a few hours a week.

And now that I've enrolled in a full course load (with obvious career change in a couple years), they're cool with me only being here half-time. Be honest. If you're good at what you do and not a pain in the ass, they'll work with you.
posted by katieinshoes at 10:56 AM on November 10, 2009

There was a guy at my old company who had to leave early once a week, say around 4:30 or so, but never said why. He told us he had to leave, and warned us he'd be gone, came in early that day, and that was that. He never said why, but he was so straightforward about the other details that it was just too socially awkward to inquire.
posted by timoni at 2:13 AM on November 11, 2009

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