Honesty or Candor in the Workplace -A Leadership Lesson


When asked, most of us would admit that honesty is necessary for the work environment. The reality -being brutally honest is very hard and non-empathic.


Blackstone CEO, Steve Schwarzman says that people are the most important asset in a company. Their relationships are important. If you see a problem with any of your team members, you have to strategize it out -You want to be nice to everybody but you have to accomplish the objectives. So, sometimes it would take two years to do something that you know should happen in ten minutes. But if you did it in ten minutes, then you would break so much glass through the organization that you would threaten the institution or you would threaten the core people. And, there’s a way to work that out. Regarding people, you need to be careful with every move. You have to give people dignity. At the same time, you have to accomplish objectives. So, time is something you give up.

The Problem With Honest Opinions

Let’s come to an important question -Why do people feel agitated on hearing honest opinions?


So, how to create a culture of honesty without hurting anyone? Is there a way that honesty can help everyone to grow?


Ed Catmull, the Pixar CEO, writes in his book, “Replace the word honesty with another word -Candor. It has a similar meaning with fewer moral connotations and obligations. Candor means forthrightness or frankness. It’s not so different from honesty, yet, in common usage, the word communicates not just truth-telling but a lack of reserve. We all know that sometimes, being reserved is healthy, even necessary for survival. Nobody thinks that being less than candid makes you a bad person. People don’t get punished for holding back their tongues at times.”


Once, in Bridgewater Associates, the management committee began to explore the idea of focusing only on core competencies and spin-off activities that would fall beyond the core capabilities. One of the ventures, the committee focused on was Bridgewater’s back-office operations. The company had built the back office team from the ground up. It had hard-working, close-knit employees who had built excellent relationships with other employees of Bridgewater associates. They were like part of an extended family.

Building a System to Practice Candor

It is a leader’s job to create systems and norms that lead to a culture of candor. Ed Catmull, in his book ‘Creativity Inc.’ mentions one example.


The bottom line is that brutal honesty is impracticable, at times & Candor is the way forward. The leaders need to be role models for establishing the culture of candor. They must care for the people, share more information, explain the reasons, spend time listening to the people, look for counter-arguments, dare to admit their errors, be approachable, set systems that can create a culture of candor, and be candid as they want others to be.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store