There are many sensitive issues in the workplace that employees might find hard to approach their employers about. Our work at Right Management has taught us that, when it comes to addressing concerns in the workplace, honesty really is the best policy (with some exceptions).
Employers need to commit to having brave and honest career conversations with their employees, but for a truly productive dialogues, it’s as vital for employees to feel enabled to instigate these as well.
Individuals need to feel supported in order to fulfil their careers, particularly as our recent whitepaper revealed that of the many factors that motivate people at work, two thirds are related to conversations about their career ambitions and futures.
This means employees should feel encouraged to take the lead, as long as they approach their employer respectfully – and honestly – about the issues they may have and any steps in their career progression that they feel ready to make.
Below I’ve outlined some scenarios in which honesty really is the best policy.
Stress in the workplace
Research published by the charity Mind reveals that 1 in 5 employees feel they can’t speak to their managers about feeling stressed. This is a worrying statistic, and an indication of an underlying problem where opportunities to fix growing issues are missed. If an employee is feeling overwhelmed with their workload and suffering from any ill effects, it’s in both the company and the individual’s interest to raise this early. Particularly as quick steps to relieve some of the pressures can have long-term, positive effects. Having an open and honest relationship with your employer will go a long way to creating a comfortable and supportive workplace environment, decreasing the stress felt at work.
Simply not getting along with someone, or even a perceived impression of bullying from a colleague can be another difficult source of stress. This may feel trickier to bring up but, again, being honest is the most effective way to start to address the problem.
These conversations should be framed in the right way: don’t just focus on the issue but rather present a solution, whether it be a team restructure or a redistribution of work. Being honest can be much easier when framed in a way which can be presented positively.
Everyone has at some point messed up at work, some worse than others. Nevertheless we have all felt that sinking feeling when we’ve realised the error of our ways, whether it was addressing an email to the wrong name or missing that last zero off of an invoice. It can feel very difficult to confess to these mistakes immediately but any manager will tell you that the sooner they know about a problem the sooner they can rectify it.
Mistakes are often the beginning of an important learning curve. No good manager will begrudge an employee for making slip-ups as they get used to doing something new. What’s important is not the mistakes that have been made but how they’ve been handled– in such situation a calm and professional attitude goes a long way. Hiding the errors or not owning up to them will send the opposite message and look more irresponsible than the original blunder.
As above, most people will probably have found themselves unhappy about the level or speed of their career progression at some stage. This can quickly breed resentment in an employee, resulting in disengagement from work and, all too often, resignation. Though employees can feel like raising any frustration with their bosses will be received poorly, the truth is, as ever, better voiced. No employer wants to loose talented staff so the best way to deal with this feeling is to approach the issue head on.
These conversations between employer and employee should start with the employee calmly setting out how they feel, providing evidence of work they are doing that they feel means they should be progressing. It should also be made clear that the employee is willing to listen to what their employer has to say on the subject. Most managers and employers will appreciate the professional, honest approach and even if this meeting doesn’t immediately result in the desired progression, it often provides clarity regarding next steps, which can clear out unspoken feelings and burgeoning resentment.
Ultimately, how honest an individual is in the workplace comes down to their own discretion. What should be remembered is that the right kind of honesty presents someone to colleagues and managers in a positive light. It’s also far more helpful in the long-term, by creating a strong honest base on which further career moves can be built.
Nicola Deas is Career Management Practice Leader at Right Management