Foster an Open, Honest Workplace Culture

Jaimy Ford by Jaimy Ford on August 1, 2013

Dishonesty in the workplace can be harmless if it simply involves co-workers telling occasional white lies to avoid offending one another. But when employees hide mistakes, sabotage their peers, lie to customers, or steal from the business, you have a major problem: These types of behavior are likely to hurt productivity, morale, and your bottom line.

Here are some tips for fostering an open, honest workplace culture.

  • Become a model of integrity. If you want your employees to be honest, you must be honest. Be accountable for your actions, including any mistakes. Don’t lie to your customers or prospects about the benefits of your products or services. Don’t make excuses or shirk responsibility. Don’t withhold essential information from your staff.
  • Give employees a voice. Yes, you worked hard to launch your business and you should make the final decisions. But you should also offer the people who work for you a chance to voice concerns, share frustrations, and provide feedback. Employees who feel they have a stake in the business are less likely to harm it than those who don’t.
  • Don’t rule with an iron fist. If you want to cultivate a team of liars, scare them by freaking out when they mess up. If you make people feel as if there’s no room for error, they will hide their mistakes for fear of losing their jobs. Handle missteps as learning opportunities and your staff will be more likely to tell you when things go wrong, so that you can minimize the damage.
  • Address dishonest behavior. When you witness employees behaving poorly, confront them. Don’t accuse people of lying, but do ask questions to get clarification. For example: “I need to clear up something. You noted here that you called the client to explain the problem with the shipment and that he decided to cancel the order instead of receive it late. When I spoke to him today, he said you never called him. What time did you call and to whom did you speak?” If it is a first-time offense, give the employee a warning and move on. If the lying becomes chronic, decide whether you should let the person go.
  • Reward honesty. When employees own up to a mistake or a slip in judgment, praise them for it. This will help to encourage their continued honesty and sense of responsibility.
  • Trust your team. Owning a business can be scary, and of course you want to protect it. However, if you doubt the integrity of your employees, question their every move, or micromanage them, they won’t respect you or the business. Treat them like the assets they are and most will turn out to be loyal, hard-working, and honest employees.
Jaimy Ford

Jaimy Ford is a business writer and editor. She writes subscription newsletters, training tools and blogs that focus on professional development, leadership, productivity and more. Her goal in everything she writes is to provide actionable advice that you can put to use immediately.