Wednesday, May 9, 2007

How do you espouse honesty in the workplace?

Any workplace in which position power is exercised has a door open to dishonest behavior. Position power leads to privilege, secrets and manipulation. If you think that is cynical look at, of all places, the US Justice Department and listen to a President who demands that hearings are in private, with no oaths or transcript.

Yes, leadership's greatest responsibility is for the culture of the workplace and it exercises that by modeling key values . . . so I suppose everything depends on what you understand to be valuable. The problem is, and we know this, that unfettered power corrupts. So in addition to ethical leaders in all our workplaces we also need the checks and balances that can be provided by boards of directors, ethics committees, regulators and, especially, the marketplace.

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Anonymous said...

It is true that leadership by example to espouse honesty in the workplace. But for the people from mid management below, a culture of honesty needs to be build so that such value can be espoused. As simple as making a lost and found corner would do. It might be so elementary and I'm not saying its all there is to promote honesty. Such activities, if implemented consistently can be part of the culture.

Chris Newham said...

Yes, I agree entirely with your comment. My original answer was too narrowly focused on top management. However, in light of my experiences (primarily US/European) unless high standards are exemplified by top management, practices like the one you describe are unlikely to be supported and will be short-lived. The problem is that top management, intentionally or not, defines the culture and thus acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Well defined initiatives taken at other levels will be sustainable only if top management ethically exercises that responsibility.

To anyone who found dishonesty was tolerated by management, my advice would be that unless they had exceptional motivation and leadership skills, they consider moving on rather than trying to change things. Of course, if they have such motivation and skills there are probably many other places where their talent is really needed and where they will be more welcome!