How can you foster honesty in workplace relationships?
Gabriella Jordan is President of the Education Division of The Handel Group, a Corporate Consulting, Executive Coaching and Personal Life Coaching company based in New York City. Its clients include AOL, The New York Times, MIT and NYU. “One of the things we teach people when we work with them is how to have hard conversations,” explained Gabriella. “Typically people aren’t honest because they’re concerned it will have negative repercussions.” She provided four steps for having an honest conversation with a business colleague.
1. Frame the conversation based on your commitment.
Gabriella is not a proponent of honesty for the sake of dumping. There should be a purpose behind the conversation such as a commitment to your workplace or to the relationship. Explain the context for having the conversation. Usually the commitment is larger than the specific topic of the conversation you are having.
2. Get permission before having the conversation.
“You don’t want to just walk into the office and launch into a conversation the other person isn’t prepared for, doesn’t have time for, etc.” Gabriella said. You may say something like “I want to have a conversation with you about X and Y because I’m really committed to our relationship. Is it okay for us to discuss this now?” If the person says “no” you can then ask “when would you be available for the conversation?”
3. Articulate your concerns about having the conversation.
For example: “I’m afraid to have this conversation because I’m afraid you’ll get mad at me” or “I’m concerned you’ll think this is none of my business” or even “I’m afraid I’ll get in trouble.”
4. Don’t assume your version is true.
You have an opinion and think you know what the facts are. Get their truth about the situation. Ask “what do you think about what I just said?” Gabriella recounted how a client felt she did not have the position at work she deserved. The client had formed her own reasons why. However on speaking with her boss she discovered her assumptions were incorrect.
When people avoid making assumptions, situations get resolved faster because there is more openness to hearing other’s perspectives. It also seems things are not taken as personally.