BY ROWENA CROSBIE, president, Tero International

We might expect honesty in our workplace conversations, but do we get it?

“Tell me honestly if you think this is OK.”

“To be honest, I don’t think we should try this.”

“In all honesty, this doesn’t work.”

These are examples of common expressions we hear daily. If we all demonstrated honesty in our conversations at work and we actually received it, we wouldn’t use or hear these phrases. We would have no need to designate when we were being honest, nor would we need to ask for honesty.

Yet we hear these phrases daily and it makes one wonder how much of our workday is spent in honest conversation. Is a presumption of honesty valid?

In a survey of 40,000 people, 93% admitted to lying at work. Saving ourselves from embarrassment, trying to delay or avoid conflict, and preserving self-interest are just a few of the reasons people lie. Add to this the fact that some organizational cultures create an environment where being honest and fessing up is not supported and does not feel safe.

We cannot presume honesty unless we are working in an organizational culture that supports it. What does that look like? Here are three key elements:

  1. The culture must be nonjudgmental. If I know you are going to actively listen to me and hear me out without judging, I am much more likely to say what I think. Judgment is a showstopper. Judgment prematurely qualifies, analyzes or provokes doubt in what someone is sharing. Nonjudgment hears and explores ideas rather than immediately placing value on them.
  2. In a culture supporting honesty, people do what they said they will do. When actions and words don’t align, it creates a violation of trust. Sometimes it only takes one violation of trust to create distrust. In an aligned culture, trust reigns within all facets and levels of the organization and extends to customers and clients as well.
  3. Honesty will be hard-pressed to find in a culture that does not allow for mistakes. Creating a culture where original mistakes are used as learning opportunities allows people the chance to grow past a mistake. People can then achieve in ways they never could if the mistake was swept under the rug or not personally accounted for.

Practicing nonjudgment, doing what we say we will do, and owning up to and troubleshooting mistakes takes away the need to say, “To be honest.” Honestly.

How much do you know about lying? Take the Tero Quiz to test yourself.


Rowena Crosbie

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