Candor is defined as the quality of being open, honest, and sincere. Many people feel this is the opposite of their workplace. In a Harvard Business Review poll, 100% of those surveyed used words such as “cloudy” and “opaque” to describe the culture of their organizations. One went so far as to use the term “mushroom farm,” meaning they were “kept in the dark and fed manure.”
Why you need a free flow of information
Some leaders decide to keep knowledge to themselves because they feel it gives them more power and authority or keeps people from finding out about their mistakes. You can’t keep problems hidden nowadays, though. All it takes is one person with a smartphone and a social media account and your embarrassing secrets can be seen by thousands or millions of people.
When you maintain a business culture of radical transparency, you maximize your resources.
It might feel good to be the only person “in the know,” but when you get input from all of your team you can take advantage of all their knowledge and expertise.
Staff members can have great ideas to contribute. Because of their different viewpoints, they can spot procedural troubles that you might miss. Front-line teams have unique insight into your customers’ thoughts and wishes that come from working with them every day. This 360° inflow of information allows you to make better decisions and design systems that address the real needs of your customers and your business.
Honest feedback improves employee engagement
Other managers may want to be more open and communicative, but struggle with a sense of awkwardness. They don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by criticizing them. This sense of empathy is often misguided, however. It might even be counterproductive.
According to OfficeVibe’s State of Employee Engagement survey, 83% said they loved to receive feedback, regardless of whether it was positive or negative.
Furthermore, 62% said they wished they received more feedback from their co-workers. It would help them improve the performance and feel like management cared about them, increasing their sense of engagement. Engaged employees pay greater attention to their work and do a better job than those who are bored and detached.
Feedback should be directed upward as well. When staff members feel free to bring up their concerns it fosters a sense of trust. Issues that affect morale can be brought into the open, discussed, and cleared. When your team feels like they have to keep silent about problems they can become angry and resentful. These feelings can build and spread throughout the department, leading to an increased turnover.
A policy of silence can allow a relatively minor difficulty to grow in size and become entrenched.
Talking about it might be hard at first, but allows you to address the problem while it’s still small.
It will be easier to solve without the load of resentment that has grown up around it.
Customer service is an increasingly complex and difficult job, and anything you can do to support your team is appreciated, by both staff and customers.
How to create a culture of candor
A culture of candor is created from the top down. The leader has to set the example for everyone else to follow. If you are honest and open and regularly admit your errors, you’ll give your staff the courage to do the same. Support them and help them share their issues. They might be afraid they’ll be punished, even fired, for making a mistake.
No one is perfect. Mistakes happen, and hiding them only causes problems to snowball. Once they’re out in the open you can do damage control, then work together to figure out what caused it and how to do better next time.
Many people hide their real thoughts and feelings at work because they’re afraid they will alienate their boss and coworkers.
Unfortunately, if the issue is important, it will probably cause great interpersonal strain to repress it. Every time it comes up the internal tension builds.
This vicious cycle can end up affecting the person’s health. It also lowers office morale, since they may complain to everyone but the person they have a problem with. The situation continues to deteriorate, when a frank and sincere discussion could solve it. Even if an easy solution can’t be found, the person can at least feel heard and hopefully understand the reasoning behind the issue.
On the other side, a manager might put off giving negative feedback out of a misplaced sense of kindness. This might actually be the worst thing you can do for your low-performing employee. If you don’t say anything, or your feedback is so wishy-washy they don’t know they’re doing anything wrong, how can they improve?
Honest feedback is a sign that you care about your team and your business. You’re helping your erring staff member grow professionally and hone their skills. Your business benefits from their improved performance, and saves the cost of hiring and training someone new.
How to deliver negative feedback
There’s an art to giving effective critiques. First of all, criticize the work, not the person. Give your feedback as soon as possible after the triggering event. It should focus on actions they can take and constructive suggestions on how they can improve. Setting specific and measurable short-term goals can also be helpful.
If you still find it tough, why not talk to another manager or business coach? You can role play having difficult conversations until it feels natural. Delivering critical messages without being hurtful takes practice.
It can be a good idea to start the conversation with the negative feedback. Drawing out the suspense won’t help either of you. Just state your case clearly and directly, without being unnecessarily personal or harsh. Once you get it out of the way you may find the person accepts it easily. Even if they take it hard you can move on to the solution without wasting time.
Creating a culture of candor takes commitment and hard work, but it fosters a healthy business environment that supports everyone in doing their best.