Truth in the Office: How to Build the Nest
Each day in the office there are dozens of opportunities and even reasons to lie. Sometimes it is the easy way out; sometimes it’s a way to squeeze around responsibility. Whatever the reason, lying almost always ends up facilitating bad or untimely work. Once management has set the precedence that lying is acceptable, or the norm, it’s game over from there on. Management is in charge of setting the tone for honesty and integrity in the workplace, and here’s how:
Know Your Limits
When a worker consistently overshoots his/her limits and cannot deliver, it isn’t necessarily a lie, but it does make the person untrustworthy. Committing to a deadline or project that involves moving parts out of one’s control is a recipe for disaster. Everyone down the line should learn to only commit to those things that he or she can solidly deliver on. Being a go-getter is great; making promises you can’t keep, isn’t.
Keep Communication Open
The open communication nest should include clients, customers and employees. Keeping communications transparent does a few great things. Transparent communications have done wonders for SEOmoz. They took honesty to a whole new level when they made their funding decks open to the public. They’re pretty much an open book over at SEOmoz. CEO Rand Fishkin pushes for “radical” transparency. He believes that businesses need to share failures and successes in order to grow. SEOmoz’s Director of Talent Acquisitions says, “Pulling back the curtain as a company, it makes you accountable.” They have decided to use transparency as a driving force behind their growth.
Lead by Example
We all make mistakes, it will happen. If leaders can be open and honest about a failure, or shortcoming, it sets the right tone. Employees are more likely to be open and honest about work when leadership makes it easy to come to them. When the culture encourages honesty, everyone can work together to fix mistakes and improve for the next go-round. Making mistakes can be embarrassing, but getting caught in a lie about those mistakes is far worse. Character means a lot in the business world. People respect people they can trust.
Don’t Ignore It
When management sweeps a lie under the rug either to avoid conflict or prevent embarrassment, it’s the same as saying it’s okay. Ignoring the problem only sets a precedence that this is acceptable behavior. While reprimands or even firings should not be disclosed to the rest of the company, it is usually pretty obvious why action is being taken. Letting others know that there will be consequences for dishonesty sends a strong message to the team.
Don’t Give Them a Reason to Lie
Take a step back and look at yourself from the employee’s perspective. Are you easy to approach? Do you lose it when an employee comes to you with a mistake or bad news? Would you be able to come to you with an issue? If it is easier to cover it up than to go to management, they will be more than likely cover it up instead. Take steps to becoming more approachable, like publicly acknowledging instances when you appreciate honesty. Don’t let an employee’s honesty be a trigger. Accountability is important, but it should not be the end goal of each negative interaction. When leaders set the precedence that they are unapproachable, they won’t be approached.
Facilitating honesty in the workplace creates a great foundation on which to build healthy communication and dialogue between everyone. Encouraging honesty starts from the top with a conscious effort toward being more realistic, transparent and accountable.