The Importance of Honesty in the Workplace
At times honesty in the workplace can be better in theory than in practice. Employees sometimes avoid voicing opinions, disappointments, frustrations, or general ideas to modify or change company’s operating procedures. Instead, these opinions and ideas may progress through the office environment in a series of conversations with other employees, forms of gossip, or underlying internal frustration. When this is the case, the problem has no viable outlet to be fixed or solved. If companies really want to evolve and grow, they must be open to hearing the truth from employees, even if it is brutally honest as it is an important step toward building integrity in the workplace. Creating an atmosphere of honesty also fosters an environment for self-accountability and responsibility. In an article by Jayme Check in Business Week, he states “[these] comments are brutally honest, wonderfully refreshing – and necessary.” Check’s article focuses on the overhaul of a company whose new CEO voiced the shortcomings of company performance, and the commitment to change what was not working. It was shocking to hear some of the brutally honest realities of their company’s flaws, but it also empowered employees to step up and fix the problems. The more transparent the work environment, the happier the employees are. The happier employees are, the more productive they are. Ultimately, honesty builds trust in the company and confidence in leadership. Voicing the truth enables all of us to identify the issue and work as a team to better it.
Tips to Foster Honesty in the Workplace
Here are five tips we found help to build honesty at the office:
Leave the judgment at the door. It is important to give each other the freedom to be honest, even if we don’t agree with their assessment. Making an employee feel that his/her opinion is judged will not foster an environment where they feel open to express their ideas and/or concerns.
Clear the Pipes. In our office, at the end of team meeting, we conclude the portion with a “clear the pipes section.” This gives members of the team an opportunity to voice opinions, frustrations, or to just get some things off their chest. It bonds the team itself because we know that we can express ourselves to our colleagues.
Implementation is Key. It is important that you don’t just give people an outlet or a forum to express their opinions, but you actually DO something about their opinions. If employees see that their opinions and thoughts matter, and leadership and staff take the steps to improve or implement their ideas, they will be empowered. Empowered employees are employees that perform above and beyond, and feel a strong sense of loyalty to their company.
Hold Employees Responsible. If an employee wants to voice an opinion, be it good or bad, they need to back up their opinions with facts and substance. Griping just to gripe does not get anyone anywhere. Employees should be prepared to offer solutions to the issues they see. If they can’t help find the solution, then they certainly can’t be expressing what needs to be changed.
Communicate the Positive AND the Negative. At the end of the day, there will always be things that need improvement. But there are so many things that are done well, and that voice should always be heard from employees and leadership. Whether it is through an e-mail, newsletter, or quarterly staff meeting, everyone should say what they think is working and perhaps what is not working. It’s important to focus on the positive, as well as acknowledge the negative. Communication is the most important way to foster this honest environment.
Final Thoughts on Honesty in the Workplace
Let's be honest about being honest - a company wide commitment to honesty at the office is hard. This requires a great deal of courage and sensitivity to discuss issues that may be uncomfortable. Responsibility for this must start at the top with the leadership team. As discussed above and as we have experienced, the payoff for this type of culture is tremendous.
Is it possible to have too much honesty in the workplace? Read our post, Radical Candor - Honesty at the Office for more tips on providing effective employee feedback. For more on corporate culture and values based business, read our posts, What Makes an Ideal Work Environment and Advantages of a Values Based Business.
The Culture Counts blog is a discussion of law firm culture and legal innovation, including topics such as effective leadership, employee engagement, workplace culture, ideal work environment, company core values, and workplace productivity.
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