From the June 2006 issue of Entrepreneur

After spending over a decade training staff at numerous companies including American Express and Marriott, author and speaker Steven Gaffney shares his research and observations in Honesty Works! Real-World Solutions to Common Problems at Work and Home. Here, he discusses how to achieve honesty.

Entrepreneur: Why is being honest at work so hard?

Steven Gaffney: The number-one reason I found people are not upfront and actually withhold information and ideas is fear. A good example is when a company needs to lay off employees or reorganize. Executives tend to withhold that information, and when people find out the truth, they feel betrayed. Employees lose morale and momentum and reduce their productivity. Honest communication and not withholding information are not just nice things--they're critical to success.

Entrepreneur: How would you create a more honest workplace?

Gaffney: The first key to improving honest communication is raising awareness that dishonesty is prevalent. We all [tell white lies] and withhold information, but it's a slippery slope.

Second, you need to not only say you want honesty--you need to demonstrate and reward honesty. You can do that by providing full disclosure of information, encouraging feedback and positively reacting even when the feedback isn't positive. You should say, "Thank you, I appreciate you giving me this information." If [you] do act defensively, apologize.

Talk to others the way you want to be talked to. Focus on solutions. If I bring up an issue, I should have some ideas in my back pocket to suggest. [Acknowledge] that your opinions are just opinions. Those who think their opinion is fact end up shutting down relationships. Last, share positive [feedback]. If people feel appreciated, they can hear the more difficult things.

Entrepreneur: What are the benefits of honesty?

Gaffney: I often challenge executives and managers by asking, "How often are you hearing crazy ideas?" We should want all kinds of ideas. There's an innovative advantage--a competitive advantage--to being upfront. If everybody's agreeing on an idea, somebody's probably lying.