“I encourage you to speak open and honestly.” An indirect quote from most any professional coach while coaching executives to “better communicate,” or how to “bond” an executive team, or how to “team build.” However, if you as the employee actually take this advice and speak honestly…most likely, your truth will be used against you. That seems to be the unfortunate culture of many work environments. Your boss does not want to hear how you feel, or whether you are trying to get pregnant, if your wife cheated on you, your child is sick, if you don’t like another employee, if another employee is not doing their job, if the hand soap in the bathroom gives you a rash, or if you are just in a bad mood because of the moon cycle. Really, what your boss cares about is the bottom line. Are you profitable for the company? Do you play nice in the sandbox? So long as you shut your mouth and swallow your true feelings, you are a “team player.” The minute you become “open and honest” and stir the pot you are automatically considered trouble. And companies don’t like pot-stirring trouble makers. And eventually, they will find a way to fire you.
The question is, why is this the culture and whether it can change. I’m not going to recite history, talk about equal rights in the work place for men and women, glass ceilings, or the like. But the culture was most likely created in an era where businesses were run by men and women were encouraged to work in the home. Big tough men, who don’t have feelings, are robotic and only care about making money and working their way up that corporate ladder. Feelings? What feelings? Men aren’t allowed to have feelings in the work place. Fast forward and the workplace evolved. Women began running companies too, sitting on the Board and bringing home six figure salaries. Another wave of robots. However, in this day of equality, men and women are treated equally…both are equally not allowed to express feelings in the workplace. So, shut your mouth and keep lying…because your truth will get you fired.
Ever want to look at your boss and say, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” And what you really want to say is, “You are a pig-headed ego-maniac and your treat your employees like garbage.” Or you work for someone so utterly incompetent that you want to tell him that his business plan will do nothing but drive the company into the toilet. For some, that would be “open and honest.” So while your boss or a professional coach may encourage “open and honest” communication, think about what they actually mean. I suggest that it actually means swallow your emotions and let’s talk “open and honestly” about work related issues that have nothing to do with emotion or feelings. So beware. Sometimes speaking “openly and honestly” actually means shut your mouth and keep lying. Or rather, be honest about the bottom line and how (or whether) you can take care of action items that your boss cares about. Your boss is your boss, not your counselor.
People talk and employees have rights. They have the right to work in a hostile free environment and an environment free of discrimination. And while, Connecticut is an at-will state, meaning you can be fired for no reason or a reason, the reason for termination cannot be discriminatory. With that….shouldn’t you be able to express your concerns openly and honestly without being concerned that your boss will hold them against you? Yes, yes you should. And an employer who does differently, is probably discriminating against you. So while dishonesty works (meaning it keeps you employed) and your truth may get you fired, you may have been fired for an unlawful reason and THAT is wrong. Work place culture may not change any time soon, but there are laws to protect you. Laws that allow you to speak open and honestly so you don’t have to shut your mouth and keep lying.
by Kirsten M. Schneider*
*This is my opinion. No professional coaches, executives, pot-stirrers or quiet individuals were harmed in the creation if this opinion piece. This is not meant to be legal advice or counsel. This is just my opinion….me being “open and honest.” That’s it.