By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I have a coworker who believes honesty is the best policy, and he is also a regular bull in a china shop. He is smart, competent and uniformly disliked because he seems to compulsively tell the truth. I like him, he makes my job easier, and I'd like to help him succeed. Is there anything I can say?
A. Yes, tell him that the truth is like one of those old disco mirror balls full of many facets. He can chose to blurt out the first thing that pops into his head or he can consider the result he is attempting to achieve and chose honest words that help him arrive at that outcome.
Many principled people in the workplace are confused about the reality that the truth can be used as a battering ram or as glue to pull projects together completely depending on the choice of words. If your boss asks if he looked stupid at a meeting, you could blurt out "Absolutely!" and end up on the fast track to unemployment.
You could also be honest and say, "I think your manager was looking for more information about how much our project was going to cost."
People who are mediators have sometimes commented that diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to hell in the way that they look forward to the trip. The truth in this humorous observation is that as professionals with integrity we do get to choose what part of the truth we tell. Using diplomatic words to be skillful doesn't diminish the truth in our communications.
Here's a general formula to increase your honesty and effectiveness simultaneously: Before you open your mouth try contemplating these two critical questions.
1) What do you want to achieve when you get done speaking?
2) What part of the truth can you express to achieve that result in a kind and effective manner?
Alienating the people you work with has never been celebrated as an effective workplace strategy. If you want to make people in your office feel bad, "the truth" can become as good an excuse as any to make them hate you and get even.
If you prefer an effective, harmonious workplace, then the price you pay is some reflection before speaking - and then speaking the truth, but in a way that allows your coworkers to maintain their self-esteem and achieves the outcome you prefer.
The last word(s)
Q. I work with a guy who regularly makes a jerk out of himself at client meetings. Other people seem reluctant to tell him to shut up. I've gotten in trouble before for creating conflicts in the workplace. Should I speak up?
A. No, people in corporate American who speak up first tend to get crucified. Take comfort in the fact that time eventually does wound all heels. Let other people begin the confrontation, support them, and realize the group will shut him down if you don't jump in.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). Contact her at www.interpersonaledge.com
or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
This was printed in the November 6, 2011 - November 19, 2011 Edition.