In last week’s blog, I looked at how far to go in being open and honest with employers when searching and applying for jobs. This week the focus is on being open and honest in the workplace and what that means for maintaining and building your professionalism.

Me, Myself, I

Be open and honest with yourself first. Continually self-reflect. Use your personal values as a compass to guide your decision-making about what you say and do, and how you present yourself within the workplace.

For example, knowing and then being open about your strengths, current limitations, likes and dislikes of tasks or activities, how you like to operate, your best contributions to a team, your preferences for thinking and doing, what triggers your ‘hot spots’ and gets you riled, and your ambitions and goals. If you don’t know, then how can you develop further and how can other people support you?

We like to hold back some things about ourselves because we feel they are private. It can feel intrusive. Other things we might be open and honest about if we knew about them – these are our blind spots. How open and honest we are depends on our personal preferences, the signals of encouragement we receive from others and the culture of the organisation (what are acceptable or unacceptable behaviours).

Be your best self, because you know yourself best.

Here are some questions for you to self-reflect on how open or closed you are. What is your WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get)?


Build Relationships

Employee surveys have shown that people leave managers, not companies. Your relationship with your boss can be critical to how you feel about a job and the effect it has on your performance.  Consider why, what, how and when you are open and honest with your boss in building an effective relationship.

For example, at the beginning of the relationship, tell your boss what your expectations are of the relationship, what brings the best out of you, where you need support, what you want to achieve in the role and your longer term ambitions. Be open and honest when things are going well and when things need adjusting. Ask your boss what is expected of you.

Honesty and openness are key ingredients of trust in a relationship. We clam up as soon as the boss either doesn’t show they care about us or lacks integrity by letting us down. Develop your skills of being assertive and giving feedback.

Build trust faster through being open and honest with care and skill.

Learn To Filter

Being open and honest comes with responsibility. We all know those people at work who share too much about themselves (self-referencing) or about others (gossip), and like to broadcast (statements) rather than engage (asking questions). Learn to filter appropriately, consider time and place, and put yourselves in other people’s shoes before shooting from the hip.

Healthy Challenge

Being open and honest about organisational problems can create personal dilemmas. In unhealthy cultures, flagging up issues that might be caused by the mistakes of others can be career-limiting or result in difficult relationships. In healthy cultures, it is welcomed as a contribution to continuous improvement as long as it is raised with care and skill. We have all seen the calamitous consequences of a climate of fear when people do not feel they can raise matters, for example, within the NHS and banks.

At an interpersonal level, differentiate between soft and hard challenge. Soft challenge involves influencing and persuading – achieving your goal through the actions of others (“How might you do that differently?”). Hard challenge is more direct – questioning and critiquing (“What makes you say that? What evidence do you have?”). Both are appropriate depending on the circumstances.

How open and honest are you at work? What helps and hinders you? What is within your control to do things differently?