The age-old cliché, "Actions speak louder than words" is true -- to a point. Don't get me wrong, actions are important but so are the tone and intent of the words we use to communicate.
Whether in the home or the workplace our words matter -- a lot.
Consider the following four examples of communications missteps and their potentially devastating professional impact.
This one is obvious. Lying to your boss, a colleague or customer can get you fired. What's not so obvious are the myriad of ways that we "massage the message" to try to convince ourselves it's not a lie.
For instance, there are a variety of ways that business leaders, executives and organizations use statistics or numbers to mislead. Whether it's by cherry picking the figures, ignoring a baseline measure or making inappropriate data comparisons, any intentional action to artificially alter information is deception. Not only can lying on the job get you fired, it can lead to civil, even criminal, charges.
Don't fall into the trap of telling yourself, "Just because it isn't the truth doesn't mean it's a lie." Actually, that's exactly what it means.
2. Withholding information.
This is the flip side of not telling the truth.
If lying is a "sin of commission," then withholding relevant information is a "sin of omission." Whether the facts are good or bad, the fact of the matter is that they're necessary to making good decisions at every level of the organization. Absent the necessary information, relevant stakeholders will have to guess or make something up.
Neither of those options ensure the long-term viability of your job.
3. Breaking promises.
Your words matter. Keeping your word matters most.
Making a promise binds you to expectations and deliverables, as well as other individuals. Failure to keep your promises negatively affects each of those areas. You do that enough times and your colleagues, customers and leadership will question your reliability and dependability, eventually impacting your employability.
This misstep in communications might seem more relevant within the context of a high school classroom and irrelevant within a company boardroom but that's simply not the case.
Repeated office chatter, speculation or rumors about the personal or sex lives of colleagues can quickly result in harassment lawsuits against those involved in the idle talk, as well as litigation against the organization itself.
Make sure you know the company policies and risks regarding this type of unproductive communications.
And if your company does not have such engagement policies in place, the best course of action is to simply avoid all gossip. Remember the words from the Disney classic Bambi, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all."
Good advice for anyone seeking a bit of job security.
At the end of the day, each of these four missteps are violations of trust. If you violate that trust on the job, you can't trust that you'll have a job in the future.