Q&A: How to Handle a Dishonest Manager

Question: As an employee, how do you handle a situation if you know your manager is being dishonest? A few employees have already approached human resources, but HR didn’t take the issue seriously. What do we do next?

Answer: To say the least, this is a very delicate situation, so it’s critical to think and act carefully. First, make absolutely certain that your manager is, in fact, dishonest. Often, hearsay and rumor can be blown out of proportion. “Without any facts, the reality may be that the behavior isn't dishonest — it's just someone acting unprofessionally,” says Darcy Eikenberg, author of “Bring Your Superpowers to Work.” “That doesn't make the work experience better, but it also doesn't make them a cheater.”

If you can put together credible evidence, one strategy is to approach your manager directly. That may be an uncomfortable proposition, but you can make it somewhat less so by identifying what you believe to be an honest mistake.

“For example, you might say, ‘Bob, I'm noticing that our department's sales counts on the board report are actually higher than our actual sales. Is there a reason for that, or some error in the system that we may need to correct?’” says Eikenberg. “Then listen to the answer. There may be a perfectly legitimate reason for what you and your co-workers have assumed to be dishonesty.”

If, on the other hand, he’s evasive or concocts a dishonest reply, at least he knows others are aware of what he’s been doing. Now is your opportunity to address the situation without the need for any disciplinary action from a higher-up. As Eikenberg explains, feel free to suggest ways to correct the “oversight” — “That way, no one in your department gets accused of unethical business practices.”

Of course, there’s always the possibility that your manager will ignore your suggestions or otherwise continue in his dishonest habits. If that’s the case, Eikenberg suggests going back to HR armed with the evidence you’ve accumulated. Take the approach of trying to help the company rather than making an accusation. If that doesn’t fly, continue up to the next step in the chain of command. Be as objective as possible and stress your concern for the organization’s integrity and well-being.

If nothing happens to correct the situation, that’s a telling sign about your company. Says Eikenberg: “It's time to get your job search in motion, since a company that ignores red flags is not one that will survive for long.”