Is it even possible to encourage honesty at work? Everyone likes to think of themselves as honest. And, it’s far easier to see the distortions other people state about situations than to see the ones we express ourselves. We notice blatant lies and subtle fudges everywhere around us. The question is, what should we do or say?
It isn’t complicated to get people to be honest. For example, simply being reminded of ethical standards encourages more honorable behavior. Studies show that people are less likely to steal or cheat when they’re asked to read the Ten Commandments first, even if they are atheists. Reading or signing an honor code or pledge also minimizes cheating.
What I find in my coaching sessions with clients, once we’ve developed trust, is many people confess to fudging occasionally. There’s a delicate balance between the contradictory desires to maintain a positive self-image and to benefit from cheating. No one likes to think of him or herself as a cheat.
One of the best books on this important topic is The Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves by best-selling author, Professor Dan Ariely. We need to figure out what causes people to cheat, and how each of us can influence honesty at work.
People want to be honest. They respond to moral reminders when put in situations that tempt dishonesty. Without such reminders, however, we feel comfortable enough to rationalize our behaviors to obtain the outcomes we want by any means.
We are influenced to be more honest in the presence of others who might see or hear us being dishonest. With moral reminders and with other people, we are less comfortable with misbehaving and cheating. Our fudge factors shrink.
It’s not always possible to have people read or sign a moral pledge. We can, however, influence our colleagues and friends when we communicate the value of doing the right things. And in doing so, we also influence ourselves to act in honest ways.
I know from professional experience, working with a business coach or adviser greatly influences one’s standards. Having regular conversations with a trusted mentor or colleague encourages moral behaviors simply by virtue of talking over situations.
What’s happening where you work? Are people comfortable encouraging others to do and say the right things? Or, do people let things slide because everybody’s doing it? What’s your opinion? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 561-582-6060, let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.