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The Value of Honesty in the Workplace

iStock_honest_600pxYou probably learned as a kid that honesty is the best policy, and it’s a philosophy that should continue in the workplace.

But honesty as an adult becomes a broader concept than the simple expectation that everyone should tell the truth. In the workplace it’s valued as a cultural paradigm including trust, integrity, ethics and so much more.

Trust Trumps Rules

Some companies try to grind honesty into the culture through granular policies that dictate, in letter-of-the-law fashion, what can or can't be done. This basically sends a message of "We don't trust you." These policies potentially encourage employees to do only what is absolutely necessary, which leads to further micromanagement that only reinforces the lack of trust.

That's why we approach our company culture with a broad policy that simply says, "Don't be a jerk." It might sound too basic, but "Don't be a jerk" really covers everything, including honesty.

Transparency From the Top Down

The expectation of honesty means you have to be clear about everything with everyone. That sends a message of trust and creates an environment of transparency, another vital element in our company.

We believe in the value of openness in the workplace and we want everyone to feel trusted, especially by the leadership of the company. Because as soon as it becomes an environment where not everyone feels trusted, the culture will fall apart.

Placing trust as the foundation of the business feeds entrepreneurship and gives your employees the confidence they need to do their jobs and explore their ideas without fear of failure, retaliation or retribution. Such an environment ultimately comes down to a decision by management to hire smartly, trust the employees to do their jobs and then be clear about everything with everyone.

Because the word "honesty" has a moralistic ring to it, we like to focus instead on being authentic and candid. We expect all of our employees to be authentic.

Hiring for Authenticity

In our hiring interviews we try to flush out if the candidates are passionate about what they do and if they are authentic about that. When you find authenticity and candidness together you generally have honesty as well.

Moreover, being authentic and candid fosters feedback and openness. It creates an environment that encourages people to push the bar higher in terms of what they can accomplish.

Granted, all that openness and authenticity is far from the norm in American business. What’s more, it can be destroyed easily by individuals bent on throwing everyone else under the bus in order to climb the corporate ladder.

The Road to Self-Responsibility

Candidness and authenticity blend well with the concept of a holacracy, where power is removed from a management hierarchy and distributed across clear roles that can be executed autonomously.

In fact, in a holacracy, the micromanager is gone. Employees fill roles rather than job descriptions and the operation functions in a culture of trust. To be sure, you can't inspire a workforce that you don't trust.

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