Honesty is not quite the lonely word Billy Joel thinks it is.
Managers and workers alike lament the loss of honesty in the workplace. Labor wants a leader to practice honesty and openness. Management seeks to hire honest, hard workers. Both are often disappointed to find it lacking in the other. Honesty in the workplace is critical to harmonious and productive relations, yet it is often one of the least discussed matters of management relations in corporate training rooms today.
We tout words like transparency, ethics, trust and similar traits of good relations, but honesty is often left near the bottom of the list, almost as an afterthought or with a brief nod suggesting honesty should be assumed when one is talking about trust and other similar attributes of good leadership.
Honesty, though, is not trust. It supports the growth and maintenance of trust, but it is in and of itself not trust. Nor is it transparency, though some might assume so. No, honesty is its own attribute, one we often fold into one of the other buzzwords, but shouldn’t. So, let’s explore it.
Labor is told a new policy will address lapses in competitive salaries but are never told that the policy also makes merit-based pay twice as difficult to authorize. A manager is informed that automation of a burdensome financial process the business division has long suffered will lessen the chances of error and delay, but learns after implementation that the additional duties once held by business office personnel now fall on clerical staff.
These are not lacking in transparency. Nor are they lapses in trust or ethics. They more closely align with what labor and consumers might deem subterfuge. They aren’t so much opaque as they are dishonest, and the loss of trust comes later.
A manager making decisions without sharing the rationale or including personnel in the decision-making process lacks transparency. A manager informing his national sales team that mileage reimbursement will go up 15 cents per mile while failing to share that the monies are simply being diverted from the annual bonus fund lacks honesty. A customer earning a “preferred customer” discount for years of loyalty learns the following month that free shipping for orders of a certain size are no longer available suffers not from a lack of transparency or trust, but a lack of honesty.
So, where does this type of less-than-honest behavior come from? Why must we focus on honesty as a separate issue from the rest? When honesty leaves the building, a few very important friends inevitably tag along: respect, mutual understanding and empathy. In fact, their departure likely preceded honesty’s exit.
When we hold back some facts, some truths, some realities, we are holding back respect for what the other would have preferred in terms of how they are treated, informedand addressed. In an effort to avoid and abscond, we omit or redirect and render the other as less than ourselves.
A vigilant empathy and adherence to personal integrity are two good places to start for avoiding the slippery slope of dishonesty. Respect the other’s position, honor the whole person, walk in their shoes and earn their trust each day.