A few years ago, a large public company recruited our corporate coaching team to help solve its biggest mystery: How had the multi-billion dollar retailer gone from raking in record revenues to falling flat for 17 straight quarters?
In typical Handel style, we dug deep into the puzzle, interviewing company leaders to uncover the truth. What we discovered was that the story was less of an Agatha Christie novel, and more like science fiction.
An unexplained phenomenon was occurring throughout the corporate head office. The CEO and VP of Sales never appeared in the same room. True, Ed and Joe (not their real names) passed by each other in the hallway, making sure to say hello. They even took the same elevator occasionally, inquiring about each other’s golf games.
Yet, when it came time for face-to-face meetings, Ed and Joe were ne’er to be seen at the same time.
Were Ed and Joe social distancing before it was a thing? Were they experiencing a case of parallel universes? Opposing magnetic force fields? Or an optical illusion?
We wondered the same. Until we combed through the “facts” and got to the truth of the matter: Ed and Joe hated each other’s guts. Each disapproved of the other’s work and complained to colleagues about their negative impact on company performance. This rubbed off on their teams, which tolerated each other at best. Yet, when Ed and Joe came face to face, they were totally fake.
In sum, Ed and Joe were being Big Fat Liars.
I know the word “liar” is charged. To be fair to Ed and Joe, we are all born liars. That includes me, as well as everyone else you and I have probably ever worked with.
I’m not talking about the obvious lies, like cooking the books, faking sick, or hiding an affair with a coworker — spoiler alert: the latter of which even I have been guilty of. [A story worthy of its own blog… coming to a newsletter near you.] I’m talking about the “little” lies, such as avoiding confrontation, distorting a story through omission or (over- or under-) exaggeration, not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings (do they really need to hear it?) or keeping thoughts, hurts, or secrets to ourselves.
The problem with these little lies is that they have big consequences. They hand our power over to our internal PR Agent — the voice in our head who tells us who we OUGHT to be and what we should and shouldn’t say out loud. You know, the voice that doesn’t speak up about your coworker’s body odor, even though it’s affecting his sales because clients don’t want to meet with him. (Yes, that really happened.)
This Agent pulls our strings like a puppet, spinning our realities, distorting our relationships, and creating problems in all areas of our lives. Over time, we become more and more fake, with the gap widening between who we are, who we want to be, and what we want to accomplish.
In our careers, our PR Agent works hard to take us away from our real selves, and we begin to dread going into work (or in the case with the pandemic, going back into work). It sells us it’s okay, because no one really loves their job, right? NOT! Our fakeness then interacts with our colleagues’ fakeness, creating one big puppet show.
This culture of inauthenticity kills happiness, crippling performance and productivity.
Sound extreme? As a coach who has worked with thousands of people in and out of companies, I can tell you, it’s not.
Whether you are a trial lawyer like I was, an HR Manager, or a Zenned-Out Spiritual Master, chances are that you are playing a leading role in your own puppet show. While there are many ways to lie, here are four ways you may not be telling your full truth at work:
Lie #1: Not sharing your opinion or feedback
Remember your coworker’s wacky idea to market bacon on J-Date or an inappropriate meme they wanted to share? The idea you gave a thumbs up to because you didn’t want to hurt their feelings, even though you knew it would end in disaster.
There is nothing nice about this kind of niceness. Rather, it is unfair to let others fail. The best way we can show our colleagues that we care is to offer input and feedback that is truthful, graceful, and aimed at their growth.
Lie #2: Getting offended and not speaking up
Whether someone rolls their eyes at us in a meeting, makes a comment that offends us, or passes us over for a raise, we have all felt hurt by another person at work. At the end of the (work) day, all human beings have feelings — lots of them. The problem is that when we feel hurt, most of us stay quiet and harbor resentment, which can poison our relationships and get in the way of doing our best work. When we get hurt, we manufacture. We manufacture new theories to explain the experience — what is wrong with them, the company or the world.
Lie #3: Gossiping
“What a know-it-all. They must love to hear the sound of their own voice because they never stop talking.”
“I know what you mean. If I have to be in one more meeting with them, I’m going to jump out the window.”
This could be a side conversation at any company, anywhere in the world. Although water cooler gossip might seem harmless, it is a great way to poison the office.
We gossip when we face a difficult situation and we don’t know how to handle it head on. Instead of going to the person who has power to do something about it — like the “know-it-all” themself, who clearly doesn’t know how they come across — we go to our buddy to get things off our chest.
While this may make us feel better in the short term, it is a destructive, manipulative tactic that undermines others’ credibility, not to mention our own.
Lie #4: It is safer to avoid the truth
This is a lie we tell ourselves, over and over again. We somehow think it is risky to tell people what we really think.
The truth is, justifying our lies is another big fat lie. The straightest line to getting what we want is telling it straight.
At Handel Group, we have developed a framework for telling the truth in difficult situations and having hard conversations. Using these guidelines, we take ownership of our own role in a situation, speak our own truth, listen to the other person’s truth, and work with that person to carve out a path for resolution.
Interested in coaching but want to learn more?
Schedule a 30-minute consultation
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For step-by-step instructions on how to have your own hard conversations, you can download our free guide here.
I dare you to try it. The results can be outstanding.
Take Ed and Joe, for example. After we took them through the HG process and coached the two on how to get real with each other, they acknowledged their mutual hurts, shared how they felt dissed, and learned how to resolve issues as they came up. To the shock of their colleagues, they healed their relationship and became regular lunch companions. Within a few months, team performance improved and company profits increased by 25%!
As they say, the numbers don’t lie. We have nothing to lose from telling the truth. And profits, personal pride, and a new pal or two to gain.
What is the conversation you need to have today?
Very TRU-ly Yours,