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Why are People Dishonest at Work?

How important is honesty in the workplace?  Many of us feel that we have to hold back parts of ourselves in our professional environment. We “show” up a certain way – usually less transparent at work – and are more open and transparent at home. But these days honesty and transparency can actually help you […]

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Why are People Dishonest at Work?

How important is honesty in the workplace? 

Many of us feel that we have to hold back parts of ourselves in our professional environment. We “show” up a certain way – usually less transparent at work – and are more open and transparent at home. But these days honesty and transparency can actually help you achieve your goals, move you forward and make you a more effective leader. How?  Let’s take a look.

Malcolm Gladwell discusses the concept of truth and transparency in his recent book, Talking to Strangers, and management gurus like the late Jack Welsh believe that establishing trust at work has emerged as being a far more important factor than perhaps old work structures suggest. Which makes sense, given the increase of hours spent in our workplace (even if that workplace is home) and how much time we spend communicating with colleagues. 

Honesty and transparency are both abilities or skills that need to be honed if they don’t come naturally.  And if they don’t come naturally, you will need to commit yourself to making a change.

The easiest way to be honest with your coworkers may surprise you; it’s to stop lying to yourself and telling yourself stories about what may or may not be going on.  It is to be responsible for your emotional triggers and knowing what scares you, makes you angry and throws you off balance.  

Understanding where your emotional triggers are and knowing when your brain goes into survival mode also known as the “fight, flight or freeze mode”, makes it more obvious when your defensive response is sometimes a lie. In other words, most of us when backed into a corner, threatened or scared, we are less likely to respond in a truthful manner. 

Knowing that this is a natural, healthy, common and relatively involuntary response, the best way we can ensure we are being honest is to remove triggers. If our daily interactions at work do not make us feel “backed into a corner,” threatened or scared, then we are more likely to respond to them in a straightforward manner. 

If we have the courage to take the extra step back, then instead of telling ourselves a mundane trusim “honesty is good,” we can be honest with ourselves about what makes us feel backed into a corner, threatened or scared – and more importantly, why. So let’s take a look at how being honest with oneself can either hinder or support you in your personal and professional life.

When wants are ego-based, when we have concerns about looking good to others, or fulfilling some “invisible shoulds,” then we can be triggered into this fight, flight or freeze response.  This is also true when we suffer from low self- esteem and/or are confused who we are and what we want. When one or more of these triggers are activated and you are aware of them, that’s when we lie to ourselves and others, and that is the moment when we can actually address and do something about! 

Ask yourself what is triggering that survival response for you? Does it come from an unhealthy dynamic at work that you can address, or does it come from other “baggage” in your life that you most certainly can focus on and clear out? Simply looking good or avoiding other peoples’ disapproval or overvaluing an immediate pleasure can lead us away from the zone of personal power and clarity. 

Being honest with ourselves about when we are being dishonest and why, means breaking old patterns, which is always challenging. But in the end these hard-won and difficult changes bring remarkable gifts and profound happiness because they represent the truth – the truth of who you are and who you can be.

Being honest with yourself about who you are and what you want will support you in every activity: as a leader at work, as a parent, or as a  friend. Ridding yourself of unproductive fear triggers will help you unleash your limitless power to achieve, and help you be consistently and continuously honest that establishes trust in everything you do.


For the past 20 years, Dr. Barbara Schwarck’s mission has been to assist people to get unstuck and to change.          To date, Dr. Schwarck, (founder of Clear Intentions International) an award-winning, dual certified coach with extensive academic training in Psychology, Management, Spirituality and Kinesiology, has successfully coached more than 1000 CEOs, professionals, family businesses owners and thought-leaders who want to be an effective leader, strong performer, clear communicator and/or difference-maker.  In her private coaching practice, clients work with her on anxiety/depression, self-esteem, relationships and/or personal growth.

Dr. Schwarck is also the creator of Neuro Emotional Coaching® a cutting edge coaching tool rooted in neuroscience, emotional intelligence and its implication for leadership. And she is the author of From Intuition to Entrepreneurship: A Women’s Guide to Following Her Dream.  If you are ready for a breakthrough, go to clearintentions.net.

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