‘Honest Guvnor’

At Global Talent 2020, and personally, “honesty is the best policy” is at our core in all we do, and in what we say. It is a watchword with how we conduct ourselves with our clientele, and candidate interactions. Honesty is how you build trust, consistency, true relationships, and also integrity.

Sometimes, if we are being honest, (sic), some people cannot handle honesty. We have all been there at some point in our lives, whether in personal circumstances, or in workplace situations. We have all felt that pang of “truth”, being levelled at us, when we do not really want to hear it, and feel when it happens that our sensibilities have been infringed upon. For example, whether this is by virtue of someone else’s true view or critique of us as a person, or by way of, a true assessment of a situation you may have been involved in or caused. Then the honest reaction it has now provoked in others affected by it. Or, an appraisal of your work performance, or non-performance in some cases. Honesty sometimes stings.

Honesty starts with yourself first of all. For the context of this blog, we shall just stick to being honest in business, not delve into private life honesty aspects– that is none of my business to be honest! Nor would I ever presume to dictate how that should be privately conducted. Everyone’s circumstances in life, are unique.

The definition of Honesty according to Wikipedia:
“Honesty is a facet of moral character that connotes positive and virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, straightforwardness, including straightforwardness of conduct, along with the absence of lying, cheating, theft, etc. Honesty also involves being trustworthy, loyal, fair, and sincere.”

In previous blogs on Global Talent 2020, I have already covered Interviews and preparation for such. However, maybe that was not explored enough, is the “honesty” aspect for the workplace once you are in, specifically in the business company culture. However, being honest in business, (and in life), should be first built on by being honest with yourself.

Look at yourself

Being honest about your self, first and foremost, is especially important. Why?

As people, we are all individualistic, unique and all of us have our own quirks and idiosyncrasies. This makes us all of who we each are at the end of the day, and a part of our each one of us as a whole. We all have the capacity though for self-deception as humans. It sometimes helps us protect our self-esteem, but honesty is the best policy, as it helps us appear more authentic, and actually overall makes us happier in our lives, rather than living a deluded one.

Self-honesty is akin to being self-aware. Self-awareness makes us more conscious that we are individually unique and allow us to “see” ourself in a realistic way.

“The reason self-honesty is a moral obligation is because self-honesty is a form of self-respect. It is impossible for us to show ourselves respect when we are deceiving ourselves.” Jeremy Sakovich – Georgia State University – Master’s Thesis

Self-honesty is also important, not only for our self-esteem, for other people seeing ourselves as realistic and authentic, but also because it provides us with these three important caveats:

• Clarity – of self, for example – ambitions, what we want to achieve or be perceived as by others.
• To enable us to learn and grow ourselves, for example – our knowledge, and skillsets.
• To act as a defence mechanism, to avoid further pain.

Honesty is something we should all value. We should all strive to be truthful about others, as they should be towards ourselves.

We have all told a “white lie “or two in our time, and this is usually because we do not wish to hurt or embarrass someone, or ourselves for that matter, or the actual truth be revealed, as it may reflect badly on our reputation, or image in someone else’s eyes. However, all we are really doing in these instances is storing up the “pain” for further down the line, as the truth always finds a way to outing itself, and when we least expect it!

Being self-honest makes us make clear, value driven decisions, and will make you happier.

Useful Link for Self-Honesty and Assessment Psychology:
Honesty Worksheets, Activities & Tests: Honesty & Integrity in Therapy

Honesty in work situations.

I have been both fortunate, and unfortunate, in working for companies through my career to date where honesty was both appreciated, and in some instances, you felt you personally could not let your voice be heard honestly about a work situation, for fear of being labelled a rebel, or disruptor, or a being seen as a usurper, or competitor, to a more senior line manager or colleague.

It is important to any company that the culture cultivated is one of open honesty. This enables a company to truly grow and evolve. Hearing the truth from their employees, good or bad, also allows companies to fully engage with their workforce, and this then really helps build great company integrity, and helps attract and retain talent.

We have all been situations in our work lives where it felt at the time, we could not voice our opinion, our frustrations, or even disappointments about something happening in the workplace. Instead, we maybe then vented our honesty to a colleague, who then may have then shared this conversation with others afterwards, and this is how office gossip can start, or distort the situation at hand. This then impacts potentially on the office atmosphere, performance, and the culture of the company. Therefore, it is better to be honest, and have the courage to speak up.

Creating a culture of honesty in the company starts with the top, and then should be cascaded and imitated, encouraged, and fostered throughout a company’s structure. It is the responsibility of everyone, not just “management”. It also creates and cultivates self – accountability in the workplace, and not a “blame – so and so – culture”.

This will make employees feel also more empowered to do their jobs, and self-policing in their abilities to step up to the mark, and to fix problems, before they escalate into issues, where more people have to jump in and resolve them . The more a company promotes a culture of honest transparency, the happier the workforce will be. The happier the workforce, the more productive they will be, which benefits everyone in the long run.

Five areas for creating Honesty in the workplace:

  1. Leave judgement at the door – everyone must be given the space, the freedom to feel they can be honest, whether we agree with their assessment or not. If an employee feels that their honesty, ideas, or even concerns will be judged, will not cultivate the right open workplace culture. You must be prepared to invest proper open listening skills, and time as an employer to foster good relationships with employees. Once this is evident, employees feel they can “open up”, and proper conversations can be had.
  2. “Clear the air” – it is important in a one to one, or a meeting for example that there should be space for time for all participants to be encouraged, (without fear of reprisal), to constructively get “things off their chest”. It helps bond a team, and colleagues to be able to express ourselves to one another, rather than being lumped in as AOB, (Any Other Business), agenda point. If you do not clear the air regularly, it can then lead to rancour, or a bigger issue further down the line – which could have been probably prevented.
  3. DO something – If an employee comes to you, and is honest about a situation, and idea or a concern – act if it is within your power to do so, if not, relay it to the person who can, do not sit on your hands, having done the listening and assessment part. If employees see that their opinions matter by their company, and their employers listen and take steps to implement their valid thoughts and opinions – they will feel empowered. This in turn benefits the company as empowered employees tend to then perform “above and beyond”. It also helps with retention and loyalty.
  4. Accountability – If an employee wants to voice an opinion, be it positive or negative, it needs to be factually based, and substantiated, not complaining, or aimless “griping”. In life generally, complaining does not get anyone, anywhere. Employees with the empowerment you have helped foster with the honest culture, should be prepared to offer solutions to the issues they see. If they can’t help finding the solution, then they certainly can’t be expressing what needs to be changed. While it is important for everyone to vent from time to time, a complaint without a solution isn’t all the helpful — and it puts the onus on someone else to solve the complaint.
  5. Communicate Positive and Negative – It is always important to focus more on positive things, but we must also pay heed to the negative. Or, in the case of the workplace, maybe something that is not working. Clear honest communication is key to +/ – poles. This again needs to be encouraged to be a two-way communicative street, between employers and employees. This can be done simply via an email, a one to one, a staff meeting or newsletter, it will help foster the right workplace environment.

Honesty legal ramifications in the workplace

While the thread of this blog has been supportive of the “Honesty is the best policy”, it is pertinent to say that it needs to be balanced, as unchecked, or not constructive, it can also lead to legal entanglements.

“A direct statement communicated to third parties can result in a claim for defamation, libel, or disparagement by the person the subject of the statement. Often such claims involve allegations that a statement injured the plaintiff or his/her reputation. Generally, truth is a defence to such claims. Keeping honest feedback private so that it is not communicated with others is one of the best ways to avoid claims.

Other types of legal issues resulting from speech can include false advertising, negligent misrepresentation, impersonation, fraud, misappropriation, online privacy, and professional negligence claims. If you are in doubt about how to best handle a statement, best to check with legal counsel first. With the rise of social media, careless comments and statements can accidentally be published to millions of people in a click”.
Klemchuk LLP article January 2014

To sum up this blog, this is an overview on honesty, not a definition, or my interpretation of what honesty looks like – or should be. It is food for thought, and to spark maybe some truly relevant questions about your approach to honesty, where you work honesty policies or culture, or what could work best to promote an open honest culture.

A commitment to a honesty in the workplace, only works if everyone is honest, or prepared to be, or accepting of honesty. It is a big ask in the complicated business world we all may operate in. It requires a culture of clear communication, courage, and also appropriate levels of sensitivity towards one another, especially if sometimes things, or issues, that need to be honestly addressed are uncomfortable to be honest about with someone, or with a multitude of people.

As I have already covered earlier though, this responsibility starts at the top of the company structure and cascades and permutates every level of the business, in each and everyone.

The benefits then for honesty guvnor, will then be evident for all to see if this balance can be achieved.

Thanks for reading, keep safe.