Honesty and Ethics in the Workplace: Why Honesty IS the Best Policy

June 7, 2019 • Rehack Team


Let’s talk about honesty and ethics in the workplace. When it comes to the working world, dishonesty occurs for several reasons. Some people lie in order to cover up a mistake they’ve made. Others lie as a matter of convenience, such as when they call in sick with a cold, but they really need a mental health day. Others lie in an attempt to get ahead, or, worse, to make a coworker they dislike look bad.

However, dishonesty in the workplace can negatively impact productivity. It’s difficult to respect and trust prevaricating coworkers, and if staff sense the boss is a liar, it ushers in insecurity and devastates morale. Here’s why you do well to operate with honesty and ethics in the workplace if you want to bolster your productivity.

How Honesty Impacts Productivity

Honesty benefits productivity in several ways. Let’s say you make a mistake while working on a big project. You have two choices: you could blame the project coordinator for not making the directions clear even if the omission was your fault, or you could ‘fess up.

Blaming someone else for your mistake is unethical. Not only that, but it’s also a good way to make an enemy quickly. It’s hard to work productively with enmity in the air.

Or, say as a manager, you offer a bonus to all employees who hit a certain target. But when they hit that target in the middle of a budget crunch, you make an excuse instead of paying up or explaining the bonus will be paid when receivables come in. How hard do you think your staff will work to hit their next goal if they fear you’ll lie about compensating them?

Honesty matters when dealing with clients, at least if you hope to keep them. Say you’re designing a website for a client, and you fall behind schedule due to changes the client requests. Is it better to honestly tell them, “I will need three additional days to complete this to quality standards,” or to promise to finish it by tomorrow and deliver a substandard product? Which method will keep them hiring you back?

Even if you think you can lie like a rug, don’t. People are savvy at picking up clues from your body language, and they’ll generally know when you’re being less than upfront. This creates an atmosphere of mistrust which can prove hard to correct.

The Subtle Differences Between Harsh Truth and Honesty and Ethics in the Workplace

That being said, there is a subtle difference between truth and honesty and ethics in the workplace. Acting with honesty and ethics does not necessarily mean being truthful to the point of hurting others.

Say a coworker asks what you think of her new floral blouse. You think it looks like your grandmother’s wallpaper — but is it ethical to say so? Unless you have the kind of relationship where ragging on each other is a token of affection, a simple, “It’s very pretty,” is the better route (and you’re not really being dishonest — flowers are pretty).

Behaving with honesty and ethics in the workplace means being upfront about professional matters where deceit will lead to negative consequences. If telling a partial truth serves no other purpose than to spare someones’ feelings, use your best judgment.

Using Honesty to Build Workplace Rapport

Imagine working in an environment where you knew when a subordinate told you, “I’ll get this done,” you have no doubt they’ll do their best to perform. Wouldn’t this free you to do your best work instead of worrying about whether they’d live up to their word?

Or, picture working at a firm where the boss says, “If you do this, I will compensate you an additional $200,” and when your next direct deposit hits, the cash is now in your hands. Wouldn’t you feel more enthusiastic about tackling the next extra project?

Honesty oils the gears of interoffice relationships. And being known as a person of your word can only bolster your own career.

Yes, Honesty IS the Best Policy

Behaving dishonestly in the workplace can lead to conflict, backstabbing and decreased productivity. Conversely, behaving with honesty and ethics in the workplace can improve relationships as well as inspire behaviors which make everyone more productive. The answer to whether honesty is the best policy at work is a definitive yes.