Management Matters: Can People Tell You the Truth?

I can’t think of a Boss that has not said that they want to hear the truth. However, many of those same people create an environment that discourages exactly that. Not only is a gag put on the truth, some people (colleagues and direct reports) get punished for being honest, which serves as an example to others to filter their input.

This muzzling can result in making bad decisions because of information not shared. Few people are eager to be penalized for their honesty.

Whether the boss is revealing their arrogance, incompetence, or they are just “in the dark,” there is often no real way to figure out if they are hearing the truth or hearing what other people think they want to hear. Whether the truth is hidden (unethical) or unknown (problematic) – it’s critical to any well run organization.

How can you create more transparency in your organization? Focus on the following:

  • Ethics – Both boss and employee should understand that it is unethical to withhold the truth.

  • Confidence – A boss should have the self-assurance to accept information from other whether hey are employees or peers. Admit that you don’t have all the answers or all the information (and in this information-rich age, who could?) This is NOT a sign of weakness.
  • Communication – A commitment to open and honest communication can build trust. No punishment for truth-tellers provides evidence that honest communication is welcome.

  • Encouragement – Run meetings that feel open, where everyone’s voice is heard, encouraging examination, allowing input, and promoting the asking of questions and expressing of differing viewpoints, all without fear of reproach.

Being afraid of the truth does not change it. Ignoring the truth will leads to bad decisions. If you want people to be honest (and speak truth to power, it requires a person who is willing to say it and someone willing to hear it.

To be honest – it’s easier said than done!

Joni Daniels is Principal of Daniels & Associates, a management training and development consulting practice that specializes in developing human resources in the areas of leadership and management training, interpersonal effectiveness and efficiency, skill- building, and organizational development interventions. With over 25 years of experience, she is a sought after resource for Fortune 500 clients, professional organizations, higher education, media outlets and business publications. Joni can be reached at

Recent Deals

Interested in advertising your deals? Contact Edwin Warfield.