The Role of Truthfulness in Collaboration

"To tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" – that's what everyone wants to hear, but according to numerous surveys, the truth is rarely told. Before we delve into why people don't tell the truth and the importance of telling the truth, we first must obtain an understanding or definition of truth. Truthfulness "implies honesty, trustworthiness, and integrity. It denotes complete sincerity and accuracy in all details." In collaboration, truthfulness also means "scrupulously ferreting out all pertinent information, so accurate and definitive decisions can be made."

Truthfulness is not something people automatically do, but instead is a trait that must be learned. Telling the truth actually fosters truth-telling in others. It can be contagious, if encouraged, accepted, and practiced by leadership. There is power in telling the truth, because freedom springs forth from honesty, since energy is not wasted on deceit and hiding from the truth. A truthful organization is really a happy and productive institution.

With accurate information, a correct assessment can be made by leadership, allowing for a quality decision being formed that will benefit the organization, as a whole. If this is the results of being truthful, why don't more people tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? There are numerous reasons, but the following are the top 10:

1. The truth hurts – either themselves or the person they are speaking to.

2. By telling the truth, some individuals believe they are giving out too much information, resulting in them losing their power over a situation.

3. They are ashamed or embarrassed by the truth.

4. They want to avoid the theatrics.

5. They see no recognized upside for relaying the truth.

6. They perceive the truth is not grandiose enough.

7. They want to avoid punishment.

8. They seek financial or social gain.

9. They want to protect their position or status.

10. They want to maintain their delusions of reality.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Collaboration Skills course?

Research has shown that in organizations where truthfulness is withheld, relationships are nonexistent, resulting in absolutely no open or candid conversations. Co-workers withhold information, and are more likely to "stab each other in the back" than to actually encourage and help each other. Fear permeates the air with people deliberately telling "little white lies" to further their own agenda, or to "get even" with someone they perceive as having done them wrong. Employees tend to be close-minded and do not welcome a difference of opinion. Needless to say, there's a lot of nervous tension throughout the organization, since people are insecure and unsure if they will have a job next week. In this type of environment, there is an overabundance of rules and strict processes to alleviate direct and open discussions.

On the flip side of the coin, organizations where truthfulness is common, and there is a measure of trust among everyone, enjoy great communication and collaboration. People enjoy sharing their thoughts, comments, suggestions, and they are well received by their co-workers. Productivity is consistently high, and problems are quickly solved. People are friendly, open, and encourage each other. People know where they stand with each other and their boss. Generally, there is excitement in the air and retention is high in this type of organization.

Relationships – How to Build Positive Ones

You would think with all the technological advances in the workplace today, people would have plenty of spare time to relax and socialize. But from the "urgent" messages popping up in emails, to the rush delivery of packages, it appears the exact opposite is true – people are busier than ever at work. Organizations are demanding more production from their employees and less time to get the work accomplished. And that is where collaboration fits into the picture – brass has learned that collaborative efforts produce positive results. The problem with this strategy emerges when leadership tosses four or five strangers in a room and demands immediate results on a project. Collaboration does not work that way.

Great collaboration depends upon considerable kinship. A leader must realize that for people to trust each other, and work together in collaboration to complete a project, they must have formed a bond – there must be a friendship or there will be no collaboration. There's a saying in the publishing world that fits this scenario – "The worse you want it now, the worse it will be." A supervisor cannot throw a group together and say, "I need this problem solved and the project complete by close of business today." They might solve the problem and throw something together, but in the process of rushing to meet the tight deadline, the group will create a dozen more problems that will need to be solved, by not truly collaborating on the project.

It takes time for people to get to know each other and learn each other's strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. This takes time and that time must be allowed for the group to truly shine, and for the organization to reap the true rewards from collaboration. During this time, the group is learning to trust each other. Trust is the cement that bonds the group into a collaborative team. Trust among each group member allows for the freedom of ideas to flow, suggestions to be made, and openness to share experiences, so that project goals are met in a timely manner. Trust eliminates power struggles and the withholding of information that makes someone feel they have an "edge" on everyone else within the group.

The bottom line is, to build trust, you must build relationships, and without relationships, collaboration is a distant reality. So relationships among co-workers are a must for collaboration to be a success. The following are seven positive steps to developing great relationships:

1. Look at yourself in the mirror. – How do you treat others? Does every sentence start with "I," or do you ask questions to get to know the other person? Do you accept others and their opinions, or are you negative and critical?

2. What are your relationship needs? Relationships are give and take, so the questions here are simply – what do you need from others and what do others need from you? It's that simple, and that complex. Obviously you need to be honest with yourself about what you need from others, and you must be willing to give others what they need from you, or you will come across as a selfish user.

3. Socialize with a purpose. Plan out your day, so that it includes time to work on building good relationships -- a few minutes to say hi and chat with a co-worker; reply to a Twitter or LinkedIn posting; have lunch with a co-worker or acquaintance – all these actions build relationships.

4. Focus on your emotions. – What are you trying to tell yourself? Why do you quickly get frustrated, while sitting in front of your computer at work? Why do you get angry, when you see a certain style of clothing? Why are you impatient? Why do you laugh at certain things? Quickly getting angry has an underlying cause that you need to rectify, before the anger takes control of all your emotions. Also, learn what makes you laugh and create more opportunities for laughter. Learning your emotional needs helps you become tuned in to others and their needs.

5. Learn to say thank you/learn to spring for coffee. – Getting in tune with others and their needs also opens up other avenues for creating relationships, and some of those avenues are simply saying thank you when someone helps you, or does something for you without you asking. Other times, it's simply asking if you can buy them a cup of coffee or a soda. The popular saying is, "Remember to stop and smell the roses," but with collaboration the saying is adjusted to, "Remember to stop, notice your co-workers and say ‘hi.'"

6. Keep the tongue in check. – Don't join the "roasting club." The gossips will prattle, but it doesn't mean you must join in. The best thing is to avoid all gossip and, instead, build up your co-workers by being positive and complimenting them.

7. Learn to listen. – Or, as the old saying goes, "Have an open ear." Truly take the time to listen to what others are saying. Sometimes true listening, also means to listen to what is not being said, to get the full story. Listening also involves observing the communicators' body language for cues as to the message they are trying to convey. It also means keeping your mouth shut and allowing them to complete their thoughts. Listening also means empathizing and avoiding built-in prejudices, judgments, and offering unsolicited advice.

Benefits of Truthfulness

Collaboration is beneficial, and for the benefits to be realized, the truth must be told – so tell it and reap the rewards. This doesn't mean to walk up to a colleague and tell them their mother needs to be slapped for teaching them to dress like Bozo the Clown. No, that will not create a positive atmosphere; but you can befriend the individual, build trust, and slowly begin to influence their clothing choices, until the psychedelic fright-night wardrobe has found comic relief. In the process, you might learn why they dress that way and gain insight into likes, dislikes, hobbies, skills, talents, and interests. All this goes a long way toward building friendships within the work place -- and outside its four walls.

Telling the truth means to accept the responsibility that comes along with the knowledge. It means respecting the other person's feelings, confidence, and trust. With truth, comes the responsibility to think of the other person before you. It means stepping back and placing "I" on the back burner. Doing this creates an atmosphere of trust, openness, and shows you are willing to trust them, openly be vulnerable, and desire to know their thoughts and opinions, and to hear their suggestions. This type of attitude creates a thriving atmosphere for collaboration.

By doing this, an atmosphere of trust is created and allows individuals to understand each other's needs, and to learn of the other's abilities, talents, and skills. What this actually does is decreases an organization's need for manpower. Yes, if this type of openness and understanding is being displayed throughout an organization, then leaders, supervisors, and managers truly know their people, and can take full advantage of everyone's natural talents to maximize production. Vulnerabilities are mitigated, and negativity is not tolerated, where truthfulness abounds. Workers feel empowered to speak up and voice their opinions, ideas, and concerns. Employees will be willing to step up and take on project responsibility, if they know people will encourage them, that they will be empowered to handle the task, and they are given the green light to showcase their talents. It's a win-win situation.

In a truthful environment, positive results include:

  • Trust among workers – To be successful and trustworthy requires a good reputation among peers, respect from leadership, and being known for quality work.

  • Less time off for illness – People who tell the truth actually are healthier, because they are happier, have less stress in their life, which in turn means they sleep better at night and are actually rested and energized when coming to work. A truthful workplace is a more productive workplace.

  • Pride in their work – Having pride in you work means you have better productivity, fewer errors, which means less time spent in rewrites, less waste, and less time wasted redoing the job, because of miscalculations.

  • More confidence in themselves and their workplace. – This means better employees, who are willing to expand their horizons, and are willing to take on new responsibilities, realizing they will be given an honest evaluation and there will not be negative repercussions from attempting something new -- since they were honest with their skills, and leadership also is honest and keeps their word.

By being honest, collaboration has an opportunity to succeed, and co-workers have the chance to blossom in their job and reap the benefits associated with true friendships. Truthfulness creates great relationships. Working in a truthful environment also has the added benefit of minimal legal issues and its related stress. People who are honest tend to stay out of trouble and are less likely to "put their foot in their mouth" and offend someone. And when problems do arise, workers generally are able to work the issue out since everyone does know and understand their co-workers – hence, they usually are able to sensibly talk about the situation and come to a workable solution.