How to Deal with Manipulative and Dishonest Coworkers

Are you stuck working with a colleague who is manipulative or dishonest? Are you concerned about this person ruining your reputation and career prospects? Luckily, the Public Speaker has tips for effectively dealing with these two workplace dangers. 

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #279

Anne, a new listener of The Public Speaker podcast, emailed me this question:

"Do you have any tips or advice for dealing with my manipulative and dishonest coworker? I have repeatedly talked to our supervisor about her, but he refuses to get in the middle. Unfortunately she and I are the only two people in our department, so I have to work with her. Otherwise I would just avoid her when possible. What is your advice?".


Manipulative and dishonest coworkers can do lasting damage to your reputation. Let’s look at these two types of dangerous behaviors more closely:

The Dishonest Coworker

When someone lies about you, it can hurt your relationships, your reputation, and your career. Author Scott Edinger offers some sound advice for dealing with dishonest coworkers in his Forbes magazine article "Four Steps to Deal with Dishonest People":

Step #1: Assess the damage. Before you can deal with the situation, you need to understand the impact. Is it a small lie with little effect? Is it a big lie that requires damage control or even legal action? Consider how others might view the situation.  You may just choose to ignore the behavior because focusing on the issue will only highlight it even more.  Although it may be difficult, the best choice might be simply to move on.  

Step #2: Confront with care. If you choose to directly address the situation, be sure to confront the behavior, not the person. Instead of calling them a liar, state the lie they told and the impact it had on you. It is critical to use neutral language and tone of voice. Do not get pulled into an emotional discussion. Do not stoop to their level, it is important to keep your integrity. Consider having witnesses to your conversation so it's not your word against theirs. 

Step #3: Take action and move on. Your final action can be accepting an apology and moving on, or it can be reporting the lie to a manager or a higher authority. In extreme cases, it can be making a formal complaint or hiring an attorney. Of course, another option to consider is moving to a new position altogether. 


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.