Telling each other the truth at work shouldn’t be a big deal, and yet we know that it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should. Consider these questions to test the candor level in your workplace.
- When the boss is all fired up about a big idea that you think is doomed to fail, what would you say?
- When a co-worker is disturbing your productivity and well-being by droning on about problems at home, do you speak up?
- When one of your employees does work that disappoints you, how direct are you in addressing your concerns?
- When you notice a potentially big problem in another person’s area of responsibility, do you jump in and say something?
- Sitting in a meeting, you suddenly have what you believe to be a half-way decent idea. Do you share it it?
When I have something to say, I am quite aware of when I choose to say it and when I choose to keep it to myself. My level of candor is relatively easy to assess. Deciding whether the people around me are candid is much tougher to determine. The best measure I use is whether or not people ever tell me things that they know I won’t be happy hearing. If tough messages are rarely shared, your organization has a candor problem.
I’m not advocating for everyone sharing every little thing that they are thinking, but when it comes to solving or preventing problems, capturing opportunities, and maintaining strong working relationships; candor is critical to the organization’s well-being.
If you want to raise the candor levels, there are three very specific things you can do.
- Model candor. Speak up, Say what you need to say. Be generous with your feedback. Offer your ideas. Respectfully and directly tell people what you think when they are behaving badly.
- Draw people out. Ask people probing questions that get at their true thoughts and feelings. Find the right time and place and then ask with a tone of genuine curiosity and kindness. People will very likely answer your questions.
- Provide positive reinforcement to people who speak up. Saying thank you to someone who delivers a particularly hard message for you to hear is a great first step. You could say something like, “I can’t say that was easy to hear, but I’m glad you were willing to deliver that information. Thank you.” You might also publicly recognize people who do raise very touchy subjects, especially in those cases where the person saying something prevented disaster.
Even the best problem solvers in the world can’t put their skills to use if they don’t know about the problems. And for that to happen, you need to get people to say that which needs saying.
Photo by Son of Groucho