An open and honest workplace is important to making employees feel they are part of a team and are important to the team’s success. This builds trust and has the potential to increase productivity, since employees feel more connected and invested in their workplace.
Managers who are not honest with their employees are likely to face issues with disgruntled workers, gossiping in the workplace, low productivity and may lose the respect of their staff. To avoid these types of situations, managers should promote an honest environment by being more open about changes and challenges in the workplace, promoting admittance of mistakes, being tactful when critiquing employees, working to stop unethical behavior and rewarding honesty.
It’s particularly important to be transparent or open with employees about what is happening within an organization, especially during budget shifts or in a poor economic climate. When there is a lack of transparency, employees will speculate or develop theories of their own, and this can reduce productivity. If employees are worried about change, including in their own jobs, they are not able to adequately perform. When employers are more open, employees will not have to worry about sudden changes and will be able to concentrate on their work.
When managers make a mistake, they should be willing to admit it and encourage their employees to do the same. Too often, managers and employees try to cover up mistakes or try to argue when told they are wrong (Huhman, 2013). By openly admitting a mistake, managers allow employees to be more open with them and to give feedback. This could also contribute to improvements in employee satisfaction and productivity. Employees can quickly be corrected if they feel comfortable admitting their mistakes or even contribute effective solutions. This also allows everyone to quickly get back to work, saving the organization time and money.
Managers should be tactful when being honest with their employees. They should treat workers with respect, speaking calmly and using proper phrasing during conversations, and try to put themselves in their employees’ shoes. Statements like, “you were totally wrong,” or, “you missed the purpose entirely,” should be avoided, as such statements make people tense or become combative. Instead, use statements that begin with, “in my experience…” or, “for me…” which foster better interaction and create an atmosphere where an honest conversation with the employee is possible.
Employees who exhibit dishonest and/or unethical behavior must be disciplined or removed from the workplace. Negative behavior can encourage office gossip and be distracting to other employees. Managers can promote a positive culture of honesty in the workplace by putting systems in place to discourage negative behavior and reward honest and ethical behavior.
Overall, honesty is important in the workplace as in anything you do. As a manager or future leader, cultivate a culture of honesty within the workplace. This kind of work environment leads to reduced employee stress, higher levels of productivity, less gossiping or distribution of inaccurate information and higher levels of trust and respect for managers. To build this sense of honesty in the workplace, managers should be open with their employees about the organization, promote the admission of mistakes, be tactful when criticizing others, actively stop dishonest and unethical behavior, and reward employee honesty.
Dylan Bogard, M.S., is the Coordinator of Community Service Programs in the Department of Student Life & First Year Experiences at Eastern Kentucky University. Michael J. Bradley, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Recreation and Park Administration at Eastern Kentucky University.
1. Long, Nichole (2016). How to Create an Atmosphere of Honesty in the Workplace.
2. Huhman, Heather H. (2013, Jan.23). 3 Essential Rules to Workplace Honesty.
3. Robins, Debbie. (2011, Nov. 17). Honesty at Work: Tell the Truth and Be More Productive.