Honesty in the Age of the Politically Correct
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Like him or not, businessman, entertainer and now, presidential candidate Donald Trump has seemingly hit a vein with voters: disdain for political correctness and a desire for frankness. We live in an age where we are constantly told that certain words and phrases are offensive. And we work in environments where the Human Resources’ standard operating procedural manuals are thicker and more elaborate than a company’s actual business strategy. So how does a company stay true to itself, and remain honest with it’s employees, in this climate? The answer is surprisingly simple; be honest. Let me explain….
It often seems that “honesty” has become synonymous with “meanness.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. However, because this is how society views honesty, we have learned to tiptoe around honesty in the name of being “kind,” until we can’t take it anymore, and then we are “brutally honest.” In other words, what we see today are co-workers and leaders not being honest with each other about daily items or occurrences, until one day, one of them can’t take it any more and they become “brutally honest.”
I suggest that there is another way. How about, instead of lying (pretending like everything is fine, or literally stating something other than the truth) to each other daily about small issues, we address these issues like grown-ups. I propose that we resolve any conflict as it arises, and then move on, all the wiser and better for the encounter.
Are there times to be “brutally honest?” Absolutely, however I feel that these times should be few and far between, reserved for those instances when a co-worker, employee, etc. just isn’t getting it no matter how many honest conversations have occurred prior. The majority of our honesty should come in everyday encounters, to avoid having to be “brutal.” Please note, I am not saying “be a jerk” or “forget that people have feelings.” I am saying that we need to be honest- i.e. honorable in principles, intentions, and actions; sincere, frank, truthful, direct- and on a regular basis.
Who should start the honesty trend in the company? It is up to the leaders in any organization to set the tone. And, unfortunately, I often witness these so called “leaders” dance around situations like they were auditioning for Dancing with the Stars. As leaders, our job is to “get messy,” and deal with the difficult and awkward situations in the organization. It is regularly necessary to do things like bring two employees together and mediate an honest discussion, one where you ask the hard questions and guide the conversation down a path to understanding.
Let’s bring honesty back to our businesses. Let’s not beat around the bush, ignore issues that are staring us in the face, or actually avoid a co-worker who is presenting some sort of a problem. Let’s address people and situations directly, with honorable intentions, and allow all parties involved to grow as a result of the conversation. Our businesses will be better for it. And maybe, just maybe, our society will become a little bit more balanced- not so politically correct and afraid to offend, but confident in our ability to have mature, honest, edifying, and refining communication.