I have a teammate (technically my superior as their position title is "senior" to my "junior") who occasionally lies, or exaggerates questionably, about our team's progress when ask by our superior - sometimes in my direct presence.

Besides forcing me to choose between "toeing the line," and "betraying a teammate," the result of this behavior has been increased pressure on the rest of the team.

How should I handle this?

  • I'm inclined to say "report this to HR", but I'm not sure. It seems, though, that he is trying to cover up the fact that he has done jack s***. And at what moments does he force you (and others) between towing the line and betrayal? Jun 17, 2015 at 8:42
  • When (s)he makes these claims to our boss in front of us, we are forced to either stay silent (become complicit, tow the line) or pipe up (betray our teammate). Jun 17, 2015 at 8:51
  • Don't let it put pressure on the rest of the team. Make him live up to the exaggerations.
    – paparazzo
    Jun 17, 2015 at 9:06
  • I think I now understand who you mean by teammate. And in that case, it sure isn't betraying. By lying, your teammate (aka "senior", right?) is putting himself in a really fragile position. If false claims are made, especially in front of your boss, call him on it. Your boss will ask him what's the deal. Be ready at this point to back up your story, because most likely the senior will want to blame others. Jun 17, 2015 at 9:08
  • 3
    Is the individual responsible in any way for reporting the status and progress to more senior people? Are they responsible for the team? As we all know, the world does not run on absolute truth and fact 100% of the time and there are occasions where someone might want to give a disingenuous, or even plain incorrect answer as part of the sensitive role of balancing political needs, desired progress, actual progress, perceived progress etc. In other words sometimes one can be sparing with the facts in order to manage a situation.
    – Marv Mills
    Jun 17, 2015 at 11:25

3 Answers 3


I think there's a compromise between the two positions.

You can speak up without betraying anyone: you can simply disagree.

When your supervisior (Alice) asks your team about progress and senior coworker (Bob) lies/misinforms/etc, you can speak up. You don't even necessarily have to call Bob out:

"Alice, I'm not sure I agree. I think the estimate of the end of the week is a little optimistic. We still need to tackle Task A and B, and we're waiting on response by the client."

If the misinformation is much more explicit (saying something is done when it isn't, rather than exaggerating out of optimism etc.) and you don't feel comfortable raising that with Bob or Alice, you can still address the matter:

"Bob, I think you misunderstood. Task A is still waiting on input by a couple of team members."

That lets Bob save face (without implying that he was misinformed -- you don't want to wind up scapegoating someone else) but still keeps Alice informed of where the team actually is, undercutting the pressure of inflated expectations.


I have a teammate who occasionally lies, or exaggerates questionably, about our team's progress...

How should I handle this?

The context is important here, so as always, it depends. A lot depends on department and company culture, and the relative positions of the individuals involved.

I never lie. And I never cover up for the lies of another. On the other hand I don't feel it is my responsibility to point out the lies or exaggerations of others, unless there is a clear and direct connection to me.

If I were the team lead, and someone on my team were lying about our progress, I would immediately correct it. I feel that the Lead (or Supervisor, Manager, etc) is directly responsible for reporting the team's progress and is the de facto voice of the team. The view of the team's progress should come through the leader.

In your situation, if a teammate or peer of mine exaggerates about our common team, I wouldn't interrupt. However, if I were asked my opinion about our progress, I would always give my opinion - even if it directly contradicted my teammate's opinion.

I might speak to my teammate privately after the incident, and ask about the progress report he/she gave. And I would likely try to leave her/him with the impression that if the superior had asked my opinion on the topic, I wouldn't have responded the same way. This wouldn't be delivered as a threat, just as a heads-up.


If your teammate lies or exaggerates but not in your direct presence, ignore it- you have no direct way of verifying that he said what he said. If the management quotes him in a conversation with you, say that your picture of the situation is different. The management can leave what you said at that or your management can dig in deeper with you. Their option.

If the teammate lies or exaggerates in front of you, tell him once the two of you are alone that you are uncomfortable about what he said. If he doesn't correct himself, then my next step will be to convey the manager the sign of the forked tongue with my fingers the next time the teammate lies in front of me.

If you feel strongly enough about one of your teammate's lies, talk to the management person who asked the question when the two of you are not in his presence and say that you don't agree with what your teammate said.

  • 4
    What's the sign of the forked tongue?
    – bpromas
    Jun 17, 2015 at 11:21
  • @BrunoRomaskiewicz It's like Winston Churchill's V-sign, except that you aren't smiling and that you are not holding up your hand - The idea is to evoke the tongue of a snake. Jun 17, 2015 at 11:51
  • 6
    So instead of speaking up and having a conversation you make a secret sign to the person being lied to so they know you think the speaker is lying?! Bizarre.
    – Marv Mills
    Jun 17, 2015 at 11:54
  • 1
    @MarvMills So what? I am bizarre. I don't need to verbalize everything. Jun 17, 2015 at 12:10
  • 9
    -1 for secret signals. Either bring it up maturely or don't, this isn't primary school. Other answers here give a far better approach
    – Daenyth
    Jun 17, 2015 at 14:05

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