“Better to be hurt by the truth than comforted by a lie.”
– Khaled Hosseini
Everyone just needs to tell the truth. If everyone told the truth all the time everything would be OK.
But of course, this is a massive oversimplification and the truth is rarely that simple.
Sometimes the truthful thing to do is to maintain confidentiality and not divulge sensitive information until it’s agreed that should happen. We can’t always be as open as we’d like. But this isn’t not being truthful. We need to use our values and judgment to decide what information to share when. That’s about acting with integrity and being honest about when we can and can’t communicate certain messages, especially if we lead or manage others.
On the other hand, people need to know there’s no hidden agenda. If we act with integrity, we retain our credibility and people will acknowledge and trust us when we say that it is simply not the right time for certain conversations to take place.
So being truthful can have its challenges and give rise to some difficult conversations. There’s a general assumption that the most important thing to do at work is for everyone to avoid conflict, get along, stay positive and not say anything to hurt anyone’s feelings. But debate, conflict and constructive criticism can sometimes bring positive benefits. This is why I love working with teams to help them raise the truth without fear of creating unnecessary team conflict.
Might it actually be a good idea to occasionally rock the boat?
Recent history is littered with examples where groupthink and lack of challenge have led to some catastrophic consequences. Good people have been known to accept toxic workplace cultures as the norm and to follow unethical instructions without question.
Is this because we don’t always know how to disagree without falling out or creating uncomfortable tensions? Do we feel we have no choice but to go along with dubious decisions because the consequences of challenging leadership would be too extreme?
Put simply, seeking the truth is not simple.
Everyone owns a piece of the truth and each person’s reality is determined by how we each see things. It’s only by collaborating and by having truthful conversations that we can make sure everyone’s truth is out on the table. Because as painful as it can sometimes be to explore the truth, it allows relationships to be reset based on mutual understanding and for outcomes to be agreed that everyone can go along with.
One of the six principles of the Savvy Conversations concept is that we should all strive to create truthful workplaces. But sometimes it’s important to pick your battles and use your judgment to decide when to speak out and when to simply bite your tongue and move on. What will you do?