Give the People What They Want: Creating a Culture of Honesty

Employees want honesty in the workplace.

There’s no simpler way to state it. Employees of all generations are increasingly and overwhelmingly pointing to a culture of honesty as one of the number one things they seek in an employer. Gone are the days of closed door meetings, whispers and an environment shrouded in secrecy.


For companies still holding onto these concepts, it can spell big problems in terms of talent management.

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If you’re working to make the shift from a hushed workplace environment to one that’s open and honest, how do you make the leap?

Hire for Honesty

Think of it this way – your culture is something that starts at the top, but you can’t be entirely responsible for corporate culture – it also falls onto the shoulders of the people who work for you.

With that being said, if you want an honest corporate culture, hire based on this concept.

You can train new employees on a lot of things, but honesty is not one of them. There are several different ways to hire for honesty.

The first is to recognize signs someone is telling the truth versus a lie, or an exaggeration. Look at body language and discern whether or not the candidate is comfortable with what they’re saying. Be aware and present during the interview process.

It’s also important to check references and information provided on a resume and make sure it completely matches up and all the dots connect. If you have someone who’s willing to lie on a resume, they’re not likely to be an ambassador of a corporate culture based on honesty.

Make Honesty a Pillar of Your Company

If you want to let employees know you’re serious about honesty, introduce it as part of your mission statement, or a key premise of what it is to work at your company.

Train your employees on honesty from the day they’re hired and continue to build on the concept of why it’s important in the workplace.

Encourage Employees to Question

If you want an honest culture in your workplace you absolutely can’t have employees who are afraid to state their opinions or share feedback, even with company leaders.

Don’t just say you’re accepting of criticism, push-back or alternative opinions – live it. Provide ample opportunities for employees to feel free to express themselves in the workplace.

Not only does a sense of openness and collaboration go a long way in terms of developing an honest culture, but it can also lead to new ideas and innovations for your company.

Don’t Punish Failure

Failure is a valuable part of an innovative workplace. This is a lesson we often talk about when describing the start-ups of Silicon Valley – something these company leaders often share is an understanding of the value of failure.

When employees recognize that failure is a part of life and work, and they don’t have a fear of being punished for it on the job, they’re more likely to be open and honest and also accept new challenges and feel more enticed to take risks. These risks can have big rewards not only for them on an individual basis, but also for the entire organization.

If Employees Aren’t Performing, Let Them Know

Honest performance reviews and criticisms are an imperative part of an honest culture. No, you don’t want employees that are afraid of failure, but you also don’t want employees who are underperforming.

Organizations with honest company cultures really benefit from performance appraisals and an overall sense of constructive criticism because employees are in the know of what’s going on with senior management. This open communication style helps your employees how and where to make changes.

Continue reading our next blog for some companies that put the idea of an honest culture into action.

December 23, 2014   Updated :March 20, 2015      

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