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Does Anyone Dare to Tell the Truth?

Aug 17, 2007
In a survey of 40,000 Americans, 93% of them admitted to lying regularly at work.

When members of an organization hide the truth from each other it sets the stage for distrust, lowered productivity, poor decisions and frustration. On the other hand, to quote a police investigator, "If you tell the truth too bluntly, you get your ass in trouble!"

Creating an atmosphere where speaking and hearing the truth is valued and practiced takes deliberate attention. This is because practicing deception has become normal for many people. You need to work to create a situation where telling the truth becomes normal again.

Several problems interact to cause deception in the workplace.

First, people are afraid to tell the truth about their own perceptions because they don't want to look weak or foolish, lose face, or be proved wrong. Instead of taking these risks, most people try to figure out what others think before they risk revealing their own thoughts. If their ideas seem different, they usually keep their thoughts to themselves.

Next, people suspect and fear that the very people they should be communicating with may react vindictively when they hear an unpleasant or unpopular point of view. This fear is realistic enough that laws have been passed to protect "whistleblowers." While employees fear retaliation, management fears lawsuits.

If this weren't enough, most folks want to be polite and avoid saying or doing anything that might embarrass someone, so they remain silent about very important issues.

Declaring that truth-telling is valued in a organization is obviously not going to do much to change this powerful set of interlocking belief systems. It takes an aware and committed leader to break this cultural norm by modeling behaviors that demonstrate that s/he values input from any source.

This means listening seriously to ideas that are different than those that are generally accepted. It also includes learning to recognize signs that you or others are steering clear of uncomfortable subject matter.

You can increase the chances of others trusting you enough to tell you the truth when you follow these guidelines.

*Respond non-defensively when you perceive that you or your pet projects are being attacked. You are most likely to miss important information when you feel uncomfortable.

*Request further information about unpopular points of view and listen respectfully when it is shared.

* Express genuine appreciation for all speakers, even if you feel impatient and/or disagree with their positions.

Behaving this way communicates, louder than words, your dedication to creating a truthful environment.
About the Author
Communicate skillfully about sensitive subjects in business situations. Have the challenging conversations that lead to cooperation and success. http://www.DareToSayIt.com/blog
Laurie Weiss, Ph.D. is a Master Certified Coach and communication expert. Dr. Weiss has spent 35 years helping clients resolve conflict in business and personal relationships. Email feedback@laurieweiss.com
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