"........When Change is the Challenge."
WHAT IS THE EMPEROR WEARING?
Truth-Telling in Business Relationships
by Laurie Weiss, Ph.D.
Laurie Weiss tells the stories of ordinary individuals in the workplace
striving to steer a course between deception and damaging confrontation.
As you relate to their struggles and successes, you learn the techniques
and strategies needed to tell the truth with grace and skill in
treacherous, rapidly changing business environments. This book is must
reading for anyone who knows that telling the truth isn't as simple as
Why Some People
Just Won't Listen
The Traps of
Discounting and Denial
Why Withhold Bad
What Is the
Behavior Is the Tip of the Iceberg of Hidden Truth
Responsibility, Initiative, and Truth Telling
Happens When an Employer Doesn't Support You
Sometimes Do More Harm Than Good?
Assumptions Can Cause Problems
What You Don't Know
Can Hurt You
Putting Faith in
Atmosphere That Encourages Trust and Truth-Telling
Truth-Telling in Interviews
The Right Questions
Invite Thoughtful and Truthful Answers
What We Don't
Discuss Can Hurt Us
History of the
Some people believe that telling the truth is a great short cut, and others see it as an invitation to disaster. Truth-telling can help you solve problems, make your life easier and your work more productive. It can also cost you your job, your reputation, and your most important relationships, unless it is approached with skill and tact.
Rita was quite certain that Kerwin, her manager, was making a disastrous decision. He refused to listen to her. She tried politely repeating her message several times and finally gave up. Her predictions were correct. Public funds were wasted and the newspapers uncovered the scandal. Did she have other options?
Robert, the owner of a dry cleaning establishment, couldn't understand why he was losing money in a store that seemed to be doing lots of business. He was reluctant to accept the evidence that his store manager was stealing his supplies
Jennifer is still furious about being squeezed out of her company by being demoted three times. She felt humiliated until she recognized that the same procedure had been used to cause others to resign as the company downsized. She refused to be intimidated, and left with her dignity intact.
Carol believed her secretary's work should meet certain standards and told her so. Her secretary, a minority worker, told others that Carol was a "bitch" and threatened a discrimination suite. The harder Carol tried to be nice, the worse the situation became.
Fred did not want to think about the financial status of his company. His management team obliged him by not troubling him with the negative information they had accumulated. His belief in his own invulnerability almost cost him his company.
Ron was not really aware of the resentment he felt toward his wife, who was also his business partner. He could not tell her the truth, because he had never noticed his own feelings. Instead he found reasons not to keep the agreements he made with her.
Marilyn, a new technician, thought she saw the doctor lose a drop of radioactive material, but she was not quite sure, so she did not speak about it. It took two working days to clean up the contamination in the laboratory. She did not even share the story until years later.
When Allen was given advance notice that the profitable store he managed was to be closed, he was ordered to keep it a secret from his loyal customers and his suppliers. He felt trapped between his responsibility to carry out the wishes of his employer and his personal commitment to integrity.
Marjorie, age 48, would have lost the job where she was getting superior reviews, if anyone learned that she had not actually graduated from high school. She decided to keep her secret to herself, and continue to serve the difficult clientsthat others preferred to avoid.
Assume that people do the best they can to get what they think they need at any given moment, using the resources available to them. Even if this assumption is not always true, it will make it easier to tell your truth.
Kathleen believed her boss was behaving inappropriately at meetings they attended together. She felt that she couldn't confront him without jeopardizing her own position. When she carefully examined her own discomfort, it dawned on her that their assumptions and objectives might be very different.
Irwin believed that he just couldn't find good help. One administrative assistant after another resigned after a few days on the job. It never occurred to him that his own demanding behavior was related to the problem. He did not know how radically his behavior changed after he'd had a few drinks with lunch. The first time a business associate suggested that he might have a problem with alcohol, he didn't listen. It took a near disaster to get his attention.
After five years of helping my business partner/husband produce and market an intensive residential workshop, while maintaining a professional practice and managing our company, I burned out. I felt so depressed that one morning I didn't want to get out of bed. That signal finally got my attention, and I realized that I hated parts of what I was doing. Telling the truth meant risking the destruction of our 13 year old business.
Elizabeth embarrassed herself by occasionally crying at faculty meetings. She rarely understood the reason for her tears. They usually occurred when she was asked to comment on something on which everyone else seemed to agree. A consultant suggested that the entiregroup examine the situation more carefully. They discovered that Elizabeth's intuition was warning her when something subtle was wrong with some proposed action.
Pete reluctantly agreed to hire another consultant to help his executive team clarify the issues that were causing several key professionals to consider resigning from his agency. When several problems were identified, including Pete's inconsistent leadership style, he courageously suggested that they first focus on his leadership. It was difficult for him to hear the negative feedback, but as he did listen and respond, the team's animosity changed to offers of help and support.
A group of frustrated business owners concluded that "candidates for jobs lie up a storm." Elaine, the president of a temporary staffing agency, agreed, adding that it is hard for people who are "scrambling to try to get decent positions" to be completely truthful about their qualifications. The reputation of her company depends upon creating a good match between the candidate and the prospective employer. She believes it is the job of the interviewer to help the candidates tell the truth about themselves so they can be placed where they are most likely to be successful.
David, a young engineer and team leader at a major electronics firm, used the information he learned at a team development workshop to help his team produce spectacular results. When he was asked to describe his methods at a briefing session for senior management, David asked questions to get the information he felt he needed to contribute to their discussion. They were astonished to discover that he was asking about important issues they had not really addressed. Within a year, David became a valued in-house consultant for his company.
Valerie struggled with herself about how to inform her client that she suspected he was using drugs. As she prepared him for job interviews, she felt that other interviewers might notice the subtle mannerisms she observed. She carefully examined her own internal conversation and her fear of alienating her client. Her commitment to her own integrity helped her find a supportive way to take the necessary risk.
Judith did not suspect that Marian, her new assistant administrator, was living in the past. Judith knew that Marian responded very poorly to suggestions. Marian was sure that Judith didn't like her and was ready to resign. Only some careful consultation helped them uncover Marian's truth--that she had Judith confused with her own grandmother.
Frank, a key employee of a growing electrical contracting company, didn't want to believe that times had changed. Although the owner's son, Sam, was getting ready to assume the company presidency, Frank insisted on treating him as if he was a teenager just learning the business. Sam valued Frank's skill and experience, and he also needed Frank to accept his authority.
Meetings were becoming a waste of time in Monica's mortgage banking office. Staff members would come late, leave early, and barely pretend to participate. Introducing a simple exercise at the start of each weekly meeting allowed everyone to gradually learn to work together more effectively.
Everyone at the meeting was frustrated. People were repeating their points several times but were not reaching resolution. A simple matter that should have taken five minutes had been debated for an hour. After a brief recess, Barry raised a new issue that concerned everyone. When the discussion of the new topic was completed, the original subject was reconsidered, and agreement on a solution came almost immediately.
It is important for any truth-teller to realize that your truth is not THE TRUTH, and neither is anyone else's. Exploring different perspectives on the truth instead of arguing about which is correct can best be accomplished in a protected environment. A variety of organizations use an ever-evolving set of agreements to create and maintain a container in which truth-telling can occur.
When Sue found herself President of the company she and her late husband had started five years earlier, she was overwhelmed. She felt at odds with the whirlwind-paced, crisis-oriented management style her husband had believed was necessary to keep the chaotic business expanding and profitable, but she didn't know what else to do. Creating harmony seemed like an impossible dream.
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