5 Reasons Your Employees Aren’t Honest With You – And What You Can Do About It

five reasons why employees are not honest with you.
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Employee dishonesty can take many forms, from lying about work hours to fudging expense reports to outright theft. While some examples of dishonesty may be easy to spot, others can be more subtle and difficult to detect. One way or another, employee dishonesty has become an issue that many managers or team leaders deal with in their daily lives. 

Identifying and addressing dishonest behavior early on before it becomes a bigger problem is a game changer, both for you as a team leader and the entire company. Even one dishonest employee can significantly impact a company’s reputation, financial stability, and employee morale.

The key is to create a culture of honesty and transparency, where employees feel comfortable reporting concerns and managers are proactive in addressing any issues that arise.

In this article, we will explore five reasons your employees aren’t honest with you and what you can do about it.

1. Honesty Starts With You

If you don’t lead by example and show genuine openness, your employees will likely follow suit and mimic your behavior. Honesty is the foundation of a strong relationship between a leader and their employees. Just like building a house of cards, each card needs to be carefully placed on top of the other, or the whole structure will collapse.

While it can be difficult to communicate unpleasant news to employees, it’s important to resist the urge to bend the truth in an effort to protect them or spare them from stress. This can quickly become a slippery slope, particularly if you start doing it every time you have unsavory information to relay to your team.

The truth is that lies have a way of catching up to you, often with negative consequences. They can damage relationships, erode trust, and harm your reputation and career, even if they were unintentional.

How to Fix it

Here are two ways to handle the situation:

  • Firstly, avoid telling half-truths and wait for the right time to reveal the complete picture. If you need more time to evaluate a situation and determine the best course of action, don’t hide the truth or pretend that everything is fine. Instead, ask your employees for a little patience so you can provide them with a clear understanding of the situation.
  • Secondly, be upfront and genuine from the beginning. Let your employees know you value honesty, and encourage them to be open and truthful with you in return.

2. Overly Intense Work Environment

There is a fine line between a toxic leader and a leader who simply has high standards for their employees. While holding employees accountable is the backbone of teamwork, it’s equally important to do so in a fair and respectful way.

Many leaders believe they should increase pressure by demanding more from employees and creating a stressful work environment to achieve productivity. But truth be told, that’s not the way to go.

Fear-based leadership approaches can lead to deception, causing workers to lie out of anxiety about failing to meet objectives. They may even resort to dishonest tactics due to fear of repercussions if they can’t meet goals through legitimate means.

To illustrate, a sales representative could falsify cold call logs, a customer service representative might lie to a customer that their issue has been resolved, or a content marketer might resort to buying backlinks to meet their quota instead of using trusted link building services.

Your employees already work under pressure. For instance, workplace automation statistics show that at least 15 industries worldwide will be affected by workplace automation, disrupting 85 million jobs by 2025.

After all, creating a high-pressure work environment can be counterproductive. It can easily lead to negative consequences such as fear-based leadership, deception, and unethical behavior.

Employee dishonesty can not only damage the company’s reputation, but it can also violate brand guidelines. This can negatively impact branding statistics, such as brand recognition and customer loyalty.

How to Fix it

One way to gain the trust of your employees and promote a more open work environment is by regularly holding impromptu meetings or sessions that focus on fostering a sense of team unity. During these meetings, it’s important to discuss any shortcomings in a calm and approachable manner without being overbearing. 

As a team leader, try to set clear and concise goals at every step of the way. Explaining everything in simple terms and avoiding jargon can create a sense of mutual respect and trust, fostering productivity. Think of it like a team huddle where everyone works together towards a common goal.

To ensure everyone is on the same page, it’s important to clearly communicate your expectations and your company’s values and objectives. You could display it on digital signage in common areas or consider posting it on the employee portal of your company’s website. This way, the information is easily accessible and transparent for all employees.   

3. The Dangers of Micromanagement

Micromanagement creates an environment where employees feel like they are constantly being watched and evaluated, which can cause anxiety and stress. In an effort to meet unrealistic expectations or avoid criticism, employees may feel compelled to lie to you or exaggerate their work.

When employees are frequently told exactly how to do their jobs and are not allowed to make decisions or take risks, they may feel demotivated and disengaged. The final result could be a lack of ownership and investment in their work, leading to subpar performance.

The bottom line is that micromanagement can backfire on you as a leader. It can make you appear inauthentic and insecure, damaging the trust between you and your employees.

Great ideas require collaboration, motivation, and confidence. Micromanaging might unintentionally push your team members apart and hinder productivity, morale, and creativity.

How to Fix it

The following tips will help you stop micromanaging:

  • Capitalize on each team member’s unique strengths and goals by delegating work accordingly. This leverages their potential and shows that you value their contributions.
  • Communicate clear expectations and let your employees take ownership of their tasks, encouraging accountability and boosting motivation.
  • Avoid perfectionism and recognize that mistakes are part of the learning process. It would allow your team to experiment, learn, and improve – that’s how great ideas are born.
  • Hire self-starters who don’t require constant supervision. This frees up your time and energy and lets you focus on higher-level tasks.
  • Solicit feedback from your team and ask them how they prefer to be managed. Show that you value their opinions and insights, tailoring your leadership approach to their needs.   

4. You Are Tuning Out

Active listening is one of the main characteristics of a good leader and a critical component of building trust with your employees. If you haven’t fully listened to their complaints or pain points in the past, they may not feel comfortable being open and honest with you in the future.

Maintaining one-on-one relationships with your team members is essential, and that starts with actively absorbing what they have to say. When you don’t listen, you risk damaging the core dynamic necessary for a healthy working relationship.

How to Fix it

Having one-on-one meetings with employees is a great way to improve your listening skills. Encourage them to be honest and share their concerns without worrying about being formal. This approach can help you identify and address any significant issues that may impact your relationship with your team. 

It’s also essential to understand your team and what motivates them. You can achieve this by conducting team meetings where you can learn about their individual needs and how they work together as a group. This can help you build stronger relationships and create a more productive work environment where everyone feels heard and valued.

5. Some People Just Can’t Seem to Be Honest

Your employees might not always tell the truth, and it’s not always something you can control. Sometimes, they might lie about their qualifications, take credit for other people’s work, or hide their mistakes to avoid getting in trouble. These actions may have different motivations, from wanting to gain resources and improve their position to increasing their power.

A SimplyHired survey on telling white lies at work revealed that 60% of employees have lied about being sick and having plans after work, 48% admitted lying about hitting traffic on their way to work, and 47% have lied about working on a project. Also, people tend to be more dishonest on Mondays (35%) and Fridays (41%).

There is a distinction between lying to leave early and lying about something that may cause harm. Regardless, making difficult choices is necessary for both scenarios. If an employee persistently lies despite being warned or presents lies that harm another employee or the company, you may need to take disciplinary action or fire the employee.

How to Fix it

First, it’s important to identify the root cause of the lying behavior. Is it a personal issue or something related to the workplace? Understanding the reason behind the behavior can help you determine the appropriate approach to address it. 

Next, have an honest conversation with the employee about the issue. Be specific about their dishonest behaviors and how they have impacted the team and organization. Offer them the opportunity to explain themselves and listen to their perspective.

Establish clear expectations for honest communication and hold employees accountable when they fail to meet those expectations. This can include regular check-ins, tracking progress, and providing feedback to ensure they’re making positive changes. 

Finally, consider offering training or resources to help employees improve their communication skills and build trust with their colleagues. For example, workshops on effective communication, conflict resolution, and building positive workplace relationships can prove beneficial. If you proactively address the issue head-on, you can create a more honest and productive work environment for all employees.

Author: Nicholas Ruberight, Content Specialist.

By BMB Staff

Business Management Blog is your online resource for business management and strategy articles, insights, ideas and tools. We talk about Business Management, Strategy, Customer Experience, Employee Engagement, Leadership and Career Growth. Subscribe to the blog to get updates about new posts.

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