Thursday, July 11, 2013

Honesty is the Secret to Success

Image courtesy of wbeem
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Erin Osterhaus.

The success of an organization is closely related to an honest company culture. And here’s the proof:

A 2010 Corporate Executive Board study found that companies encouraging open and honest feedback among its employees experienced superior shareholder returns over a ten year period, outperforming others by 270 percent. In the study, from 1998 - 2008, companies with honest feedback among their staff. Impressive numbers, but do they hold up?

To find out, Fierce, Inc., a leadership consulting firm, conducted its own research. The firm surveyed over 1,400 executives and employees, finding that the vast majority - 99 percent - preferred a workplace where staff members were able to discuss issues truthfully.

Honesty may make a company a “happier” place to work, but the Fierce survey uncovered an even more important finding: 70 percent of respondents believed that a lack of candor impacted their organization’s ability to perform at its best. There were various reasons for this belief, among them the argument that small problems could be identified early on, arming managers with the information needed to make decisions.

But, unfortunately, a culture of open and honest feedback doesn’t occur organically. In a recent article on the Software Advice website, the CEO and President of Fierce, Halley Bock, provided four key tactics to improve your company’s communication and encourage open and honest feedback.
  1. Be Current and Brief. Resolve problems faster by addressing issues as soon as they arise.
  2. Don’t Sugarcoat the Issue. Don’t cushion confrontational situations with compliments or small talk; tell colleagues or employees what’s at stake, and review the steps required to address the issue together.
  3. Keep Positives and Negatives Separate. Focus only on the positive or negative when it is warranted, and don’t muddle the issues in a “compliment sandwich.”
  4. Use a Social Networking Approach. Enjoy higher employee morale, improved productivity, better retention, and increased bottom-line success through candid dialogues between managers, employees and coworkers.
These tips might not be easy to implement, but they’re well worth it. In the end, nurturing a workplace culture of honesty and open communication will not only increase the level of happiness your employees experience in the workplace but it may also increase your revenue. And what business wouldn’t want that?

Erin Osterhaus is the Managing Editor for Software Advice’s HR blog, The New Talent Times. She focuses on the HR market, offering advice to industry professionals on the best recruiting, talent management, and leadership techniques. Prior to joining Software Advice, Erin held various writing positions in the private, non-profit and government sectors. She holds a B.A. from Southwestern University in Spanish, French and German, and recently completed her M.A. from Georgetown University in International Affairs. When she's not writing about up-and-coming trends in the HR space, she's reading novels or traveling to exotic locations (or both).


  1. Great post Erin and good ideas here. During my graduate studies at Boston University (a bit ago) I was exposed to a creative process called Synectics-and a company formed of the same name. This included a process of discussing issues by first providing three positive perspectives (forced fit if you had to) and then dealing with the negative yet in a way that couched the negatives as problems that simply required resolution. This got people out of the habit of going for the negative right off the bat and then stating the negatives as positives-problems that simply required a resolution--hence creativity.

  2. Very nicely said Erin! It can be hard to break the habit of blame assignment when things go wrong. Advocating for honest problem solving so everyone can benefit from avoiding the problem in the future can be a big culture shift but it feels so much better to work in that environment.

  3. This is so true Erin, I work for a "good news" organisation. Only good news flows up to senior executives because they react harshly to bad news.

    Consequently they are misinformed and clueless

  4. You've made some fantastic points, I think all of them come under the importance of attention to detail, if you get that right you're certainly off to a good start.

  5. Thanks for all your comments! I'm glad you enjoyed the article. I do think that if more companies followed Halley Bock's four tactics, there would be more happy workers--and more productive companies.