Can Your Employees Handle the Truth?

Employees say they hunger for truth. They claim to plea for transparency. Many assess an organization’s credibility by its willingness to say what they don’t want to hear.

But how prepared are employees to hear the truth?

Just as Jack Nicholson accused Tom Cruise, in A Few Good Men, that he “could not handle the truth,” how prepared are today’s employees to hear what may be painful or disappointing?

Or is a key to organizational truth a willingness, of leadership, to hear the truth from employees? Is the confidence that leadership will listen, and act, what employees require to, in turn, believe what they hear?

I recently talked with employees of a major organization, a solid, well-intentioned, carefully managed company that truly cares about its people.

This is an organization that many would envy. Its people are engaged, interested, curious and committed.

Still, they don’t always like what they hear.

And, despite the company’s efforts to be candid, employees say the transparent approaches often backfire because they simply aren’t prepared to handle the truth they are served.

So the company asks, “What can we do to prepare our employees to hear the truth? How can we establish a foundation for how we communicate? What narrative can we develop to frame the truthful facts we want to share?”

Employees answer, “it’s not a matter of how truthful you are when you speak, it’s how authentic you are when you listen.”

As communicators, we facilitate conversations, and exchanges of opinions and information, for people to believe as truthful.

But what makes people believe what they experience is truthful?

Is it how the information is shared, what facts the information contains, who shares the message, or how that messenger behaves?

Or does a perception of truth have less to do with the credibility of the message or messenger, and more with the authenticity of the actual exchange? Does an employee decide if an organization is truthful based on what is said or how carefully and thoroughly an organization listens?

No matter the organization or the audience, a communicator’s first priority should be to develop sound, credible ways to listen. And, as we help organizatons listen, and demonstrate that leaders listen and what they do with what they hear, the organization develops the credibility that, in turn, prepares people to hear the truth.

The employees I talked with offered a simple suggestion.

“If you help our leaders hear the truth from employees that will, in turn, prepare employees to hear the truth from leaders.”

And that can be an authentic, credible exchange.

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  1. Sheri Rosen says:

    A lifetime of experience in one sentence: “It’s not a matter of how truthful you are when you speak, it’s how authentic you are when you listen.” Thanks, Mark, for the priceless summary.

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