Is Your Organisation’s Culture Killing Open, Honest Communication?

By Heather Campbell

By Heather Campbell >>

Does your organisation aim to have open, honest communication? I’ll bet it does. It would be a rare – and somewhat foolhardy – leadership team whose stated preference was for dishonest, cloak-and-dagger interactions instead.

So, given the prevalence of good intention, how come so many businesses are far closer to the latter than the former? What gets in the way?

Open, honest communication is not just a nice-to-have, it’s a business essential. Without it, leaders make decisions based on massaged statistics and team members are frustrated by management communications that over-egg the positive at the expense of reality.

Talk to managers about what they want to hear from their direct reports and they will emphasise they want to hear the truth. Direct reports want the same from their bosses. And yet both parties often fail to deliver.

The cause is usually deeply embedded in the company culture. Signs that your culture is suffocating honesty and openness include:

  • Bosses who blame, rather than seek to understand, when the news isn’t good
  • A strict organisational hierarchy where it’s not okay to ask questions up, down and sideways
  • Bosses who ritually humiliate people in meetings
  • Direct reports who get angry when the boss doesn’t have all the answers
  • Executive teams who give people a grilling when they pitch up to present at the monthly Exec meeting
  • Leaders who say they want challenge and new ideas, then refuse to listen – or become defensive when they get them
  • A silo mentality where people go out of their way to protect their patch
  • Managers who build cliques, sharing information with their favoured few

It takes maturity, courage and understanding on all sides to overcome such engrained practices and develop a culture that allows open, honest communication to flourish. The rewards, however, are well worth it.

Organisations that truly embrace open, honest communication enable working relationships based on trust, building high levels of engagement and motivation. People at all levels make better-informed decisions. They collaborate rather than working in isolated – even competing – pockets.

All of this adds up to more productivity and less wasting of time, resources and energy. And in a period of ever-increasing competition and ever-decreasing financial resources, which business can afford to turn its back on that?

What are your experiences of openness and transparency (or lack thereof) in the workplace? Do you agree that honesty is essential to business success? Leave us a comment below or tweet us @CommsMasters.

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