The Importance of Transparency: 5 Ways to Encourage Honesty in the Workplace

An employee seeks to encourage honesty in the workplace.

Honesty is the best policy. Most likely, you’ve heard this slogan before. The majority of people can agree that being honest upholds your character, protects your reputation and positively influences outcomes.

Despite this, many people struggle with the tendency to tell lies — big and small — throughout their lives. In one study, researchers found that 90% of four-year-olds not only grasp the concept of lying, but will choose to spin a tale before telling the truth. Another study reported that 60% of adults will lie in the span of a 10-minute conversation. Further, some have estimated that up to 40% of resumes may contain a splash of deceit.

We believe that honesty is important, but we often fail to put this belief into practice. In the workplace, failure to maintain integrity can have huge consequences and destroy your team from the inside out. 

On the other hand, when honesty is at the forefront of an organization, co-workers share a sense of trust and loyalty, manage problems efficiently and build healthy relationships. 

Here are five ways you can encourage honesty in the workplace.

1. Understand your communication style.

Are you a passive communicator who needs massive willpower to speak up? Or are you an aggressive communicator who must be cornered to hear the other perspective? There are numerous communication styles, and when diverse personalities are at play in a work environment, conflict resolution can be a difficult process. 

When you understand your communication style, and that of your team members, you are better equipped to speak the truth in love. You can challenge yourself to be more patient, or assertive, and strive for honesty and understanding in every interaction.

2. Choose constructive criticism over judgment.

If the threat of disapproval or punishment were hanging over your head, you’d probably appease your superior with a small lie rather than risk your position, right? When leaders play the blame game, there seems to be too much at stake to tell the truth. Therefore, it makes sense that a co-worker might fashion a story that protects themselves. 

Situations like these can encourage dishonesty. Rather than casting harsh judgements, leaders can offer constructive, positive feedback and promote a safe environment for speaking truthfully. 

3. Encourage collaboration.

Unhealthy competition can cause people to distort the truth in order to make themselves look better. Colleagues who are united by a sense of camaraderie are more likely to trust each other and less likely to hide or distort information. Leaders can encourage unity by creating workspaces that allow for team cooperation, organizing a team-building activity and rewarding group efforts.

4. Remind your co-workers that failures are not fatal.

Failures can be embarrassing. People may prefer to keep their errors from others, but mistakes can also be crucial learning opportunities. 

Failure is often the prerequisite for success. It teaches important lessons and encourages new ideas. Your co-workers shouldn’t be afraid of admitting their mistakes. Through honest recognition of failure, they can appropriately address the present and generate creative solutions.

5. Embody your values.

If honesty is a value you want showcased in your organization, then your leadership must demonstrate integrity. Keep your commitments, address unethical behavior and be as open as possible, even if it means having difficult conversations. You’ll gain more respect and loyalty by being transparent, and you’ll set the standard for everyone else.

While leaders can’t guarantee that their employees will exhibit integrity, they can encourage honesty in countless ways. Place your values at the center of your mission and implement them in your life. When you take practical steps toward honesty in your organization, you can effectively cultivate truthfulness in the workplace. After all, honesty is the best policy.

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