I think that honesty is always the best policy at work. If a project isn’t going well, I tell my manager about it. If I make a mistake, I own up to it. But I do sometimes struggle with being honest when I know that my message is going to hurt a coworker’s feelings. Should you really “tell it like it is” when you know you’re going to upset someone else? Or is it better to soften your message or just not mention it?

If you’ve also struggled with this issue, you’re not alone. A survey by Fierce Inc. revealed that 80% of workers aren’t always honest because they’re fearful of hurting a coworker’s feelings. But author Taryn Oesch believes that you should be honest, even about difficult subjects.

Oesch argues that if you’re not honest with other people, then the problems that exist are going to continue and possibly escalate. And the coworker that you’re trying to protect could end up in an even worse situation. Being honest about the problems will likely benefit your coworker (and the company) in the long run.

So Oesch believes that you you should and can be honest. You just need to follow these steps:

  • Be candid AND kind – You need to be honest but also kind. Don’t deliver your message angrily or aggressively. Be honest, but also listen to what your coworker has to say, and show empathy. If changes need to be made, offer to help your coworker if you can.    
  • Provide feedback the right way – Begin by focusing on the good things that your colleague is doing. Then talk about the specific behaviors that have been causing a problem. Be clear and honest, but don’t dwell on these issues. Instead, focus on the future, and how a few changes could make things better moving forward.
  • Establish a baseline of trust – Try to form trusting relationships with your colleagues. Be honest with them about your own struggles at work. If you like and trust each other, it will be much easier to provide honest feedback.
  • Be open to receiving feedback from others – If you’re going to be honest with your coworkers about the problems that exist, you have to also be open to receiving feedback from them. Don’t get defensive or angry. Listen to their message, consider it carefully, and attempt to make positive changes in the future.

Oesch, T. (2019, July 23). Tiptoeing isn’t nice: 5 tips to be both kind and candid. Training Industry. Retrieved from: https://trainingindustry.com/articles/leadership/tiptoeing-isnt-nice-5-tips-to-be-both-kind-and-candid/

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