The Importance of Honesty in the Workplace

Trust and honesty go hand in hand.
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Cosmetics maven Mary Kay Ash once said, "Honesty is the cornerstone of all success, without which confidence and ability to perform shall cease to exist." Organizations that fail to recognize this truth will pay for their short-sightedness in a number of ways, whether it be humiliation -- think Enron -- or a steady loss of disgruntled customers.


    A workplace that values honesty will experience a ripple effect throughout the company. Coworkers will trust each other, employees will view management with less suspicion and customers will return and spread the word about the company's integrity. Honest companies also don't have to worry about getting into trouble with the IRS or the media because of unethical behavior. While a company may have to forgo short-term gains in order to uphold honest ideals, it will come out ahead in the long run.

When Honesty Is Absent

    In the book "Honesty Sells: How to Make More Money and Increase Business Profits," Steven Gaffney and Colleen Francis describe an encounter with a salesperson who assured Gaffney that he could change electric services without being locked into a contract. Having twice clarified the salesperson's statement, Gaffney discovered that would need to sign a three-year contract when he talked to the head office agent to close the deal. Of course, the salesperson didn't make the sale, and it's safe to say Gaffney will not be switching to that electric provider anytime soon. In the long term, a workplace that doesn't foster honest communication between employees, management and customers can expect its bottom line to suffer along with morale and overall performance.

The Trickle-Down Effect

    To create an honest environment, management must be committed to integrity. In his book "How Honesty Pays: Restoring Integrity to the Workplace," Charles Watson tells the story of an upper-level manager who sought advice on how to handle employee theft of office supplies. Watson then witnessed the manager direct a subordinate to have a construction team complete an addition to his home on company time -- not exactly an honest move, either. When honesty is not valued at the top, it won't be valued at the bottom. To tell if an organization prizes integrity, look no further than management.


    In today's corporate world, it can be difficult to maintain an atmosphere that fosters integrity. Watson points out that many companies heavily emphasize competition. This can cause employees to focus on their own sales or promotions at the expense of honest behavior. When workers are constantly pressed for time, doing work that is not valued or placing too much value on comparatively unimportant things, an environment of dishonesty may flourish.

    To promote honesty within the workplace, managers can model the behavior they want to see. For example, a manager might simply write the copy machine technician a check rather than insisting the machine is under warranty since she -- and the rest of the office -- is well aware the machine broke because of a coffee spill earlier that morning.

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