By E. Elizabeth Carter
In today’s world, we are bombarded with news of people being deceitful and untrustworthy. They may get away with something (or many things) for a long time but eventually they get caught. These people may have grown up hearing the phrase – “Honesty is the best policy” – but obviously they chose not to take this ethical path.
In a team setting, honesty can still be difficult. When asked questions by other members of the team, one may be reluctant to being totally truthful. There is a myriad of reasons why someone would act this way. A common one is having a lack of self-confidence in expressing their opinions which can make them fearful of how others may react. Others could include “holding back” information or opinions – not so much to be dishonest but for that moment it may be information that is not allowed to be made public yet. Lastly there are some that act in this manner to elevate themselves and their needs above others with no regard what the outcome may be; they are only concerned about themselves and will do whatever it takes including lie to get there.
So how does a leader as well as the other team members ascertain if someone is being honest? If a person is new, they need to build trust with others but it does take time. If the person is hesitant to speak up initially it is necessary for everyone to encourage the person to voice their opinion. Over time, the team members should learn who is more trustworthy than others but ideally you want to work in an environment where everyone is honest.
What about the “little white lie”? If it is used so as not to hurt someone’s feelings and does not cause any trouble to the group is that acceptable? Such examples are commenting on someone’s attire or their plans for the weekend. However, what happens when the lie grows and grows to the point that one has to “come clean” because they have backed themselves into a corner? Accepting responsibility for the lie(s) is the first step but how amenable are others to accepting the apology? The added issue is that rumors and gossip can start circling around the team compounding the lie.
Leaders need to be attuned to what is going on every day even though they may not be physically in the office. It is important for them to really spend the time to understand the dynamics of each person, the interaction between two or more people within the team (possible cliques), as well as the team overall. It is true that being honest may cause conflict but it is better to stop a little brush fire otherwise it may become an inferno and all credibility with the guilty parties may never be able to be regained.
As you read this, think about the last lie you told. Was it worth it? A person in the behavioral health field once told me that people lie because it makes them feel good. I think that is only one way to look at this. Let’s be honest here, lying has toppled all kinds of organizations so it is worth the time to do some self-examining and see how honest you really are and then assess others on the team. The goal is to create harmony (another good H word) in your workplace.