How to Tell the Truth

A woman seeks advice about whether or not she should be more honest in the workplace.

Your Career Coach

To Tell the Truth

Dear Michele,

I work in an industry in which everyone knows one another. I’m often asked what it’s like to work with a particular person, and I need advice on how to answer when the person in question has not been professional, or seems to lack skills. Often, the person in question is older than me, or has worked on projects that are of a much smaller scale than ones I’ve worked on. Therefore, I sometimes notice flaws or weaknesses in their work that would not be acceptable on a large scale project, but that may not be noticed by people accustomed to working on smaller projects.

Do I lie and say something positive about them? Or do I tell the truth?

The problem with lying and just saying something positive is that then I don’t get to show the insights and experience that I have. And then the weaker people, who seem to have more authority, seem to band together to push me out, possibly because they’ve caught on that they are not fooling ME, even though they get by very well with fooling their clients and many others.

On the flip side, I’ve always been taught that there’s no gain in bad-mouthing others … help!

— Stuck in the Middle

Dear Stuck,

It seems to me that your issue is not “truth” but “trust.” If there’s a bond of trust between you and the people you work with, then you can create a safe place for criticism, error-catching and difficult conversations. Trust in the workplace is an under-rated asset — and if you’d like to read more about fostering trust, pick up Jeffrey Gitomer’s new book The Little Teal Book of Trust.

Gitomer provides step-by-step directions about how to grow trust and how to make it work for you in the workplace. Bottom line? Trust yourself, first, to be able to make good judgments about the “mistakes” of others, and do the self-inquiry necessary to find out to what extent ego is involved (your own as well as others), then make a plan to consciously create trust with your team, and I’ll bet you that your dilemma about lying or telling the truth goes away. Completely.

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