Policy of Truth

In business, as in life, honesty is the best policy. Establishing a truth-telling culture in your facility is good for business.

Your first challenge as a manager is to create a high-performance environment for genuine high performers, eccentric as they may be, and to show the door to those who Woody Allen once famously said that 80 percent of success is showing up, but most employers expect more from their employees. Another essential is honesty. Quite simply, no one wants to employ, work with or work for someone who can't be trusted to tell the truth.
Or do they? People lie in the workplace every day. As The Washington Post reported last month, "according to a survey released in [February 2006] by CareerBuilder.com, 19 percent of workers admit they tell lies at the office at least once a week. The reasons: to appease a customer (26 percent); to cover up a failed project, mistake or missed deadline (13 percent); to explain an unexcused absence or late arrival (8 percent); to protect another employee (8 percent); to get another employee in trouble (5 percent)." Before you get huffy over the fact that some employees have the audacity to lie to cover up their mistakes or be excused for tardiness, ask yourself if you have the same level of outrage over the following lies: 1) the lie that appeases a client, or 2) the lies you tell employees to make things run smoothly in your facility. Managers apparently have a high tolerance for the lies their employees tell clients.

Little white lies

What about the lies you tell to make your life easier? Suppose a good employee asks why he didn't receive an expected raise. Rather than admitting that you decided to give the raise to another, equally deserving, employee, you tell him you've put a freeze on all raises because revenues are lower than expected this quarter. You rationalize that if you tell the truth, you may lose a good employee. But consider this: Your little white lie saved an uncomfortable conversation in the present, but it also has future consequences. Even if the overlooked employee doesn't quit, he won't give you the 110 percent you've been getting in the past - not after you've removed the carrot of raises based on performance. And what if he finds out about the other employee's pay bump? He will never trust you again. Not only that, but the same breakroom gossip that clued him into the other guy's raise will now have a new topic: What a dishonest, sleazy boss you are. No one will trust you after that - not even the employee who got the raise. Scary as it may be, managers should tell the truth because it is the right thing to do. In business, as in life, honesty is the best policy. Establishing a truth-telling culture in your facility is good for business.

How to establish a truth-telling culture

Brad Blanton, a psychotherapist, consultant and author of Radical Honesty: How to Transform Your Life by Telling the Truth, believes that lying in the workplace is counter-productive and exhausting. He teaches managers how to stop lying and how to get their employees to do the same. Here's his simple three-step plan: Tell the truth compulsively. If you're unhappy about something an employee has done, say so. Don't be shy, but don't be tactless, either. Instead, express your dissatisfaction clearly and specifically, and focus on the behavior, not the person. Tell the truth immediately. There's no time like the present. Tell the truth when it occurs to you. Storing up unpleasant information, avoidance and denial only allow simmering rage to fester and get worse. Tell the truth repeatedly. It's not enough for you, the manager, to be committed to always being truthful. You need to create an environment where employees will also be comfortable being honest. One consultant devised a clever exercise to help people practice honest communication. Fast Company magazine reports, "It's called Stop, Start and Continue. Every six months, members of her group participated in an informal appraisal exercise. Each person selected five to 10 peers, subordinates and managers to evaluate them along three simple criteria: This is what I want you to stop doing; this is what I want you to start doing; this is what I want you to continue doing. Then the whole group met to discuss the appraisal." While even the thought of always telling the truth can seem frightening, practitioners report that it becomes not only easy, but also exhilarating. References 1. Joyce, A. The fine art of lying. The Washington Post pF01, www.washington post.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/25/AR2006032500113.html, Mar. 26, 2006. 2. Lie for me not to me says UK bosses. www.bytestart.co.uk/content/news/ 1_12/lie-for-me-not-to-me-says.shtml, Feb. 25, 2005. 3. Van Housen, A. Here's a radical ideal: Tell the truth! Fast Company p50, www.fastcompany.com/magazine/10/truth.html, August/September 1997.

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