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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Give Honesty a Try


I use to say that you can’t lose being honest with me. There is no potential downside – only upside. I have no problems with critical opinions on me, others or the organization we’re part of. I don’t necessarily have to agree with these opinions but I want, and need, to know them. After all, if I don’t know you don’t like something odds are I won’t do anything to change it.

I know there are different managers out there and openness and honesty don’t have to work equally well in each case. However, if you have to hide your opinions and play someone else to survive in a decent health in the organization then, well, I wouldn’t like to be a part of such company in the first place.

For the sake of this argument consider you really can openly talk with your bosses about your problems and frustrations, if you have any. Will you just be honest like you’d be when describing the situation to your friend over a pint of beer?

From my experience: many people are not.

I don’t get it. Let’s say my decision pissed you off or you felt my opinion was unfair. We can sit down and discuss it through. I make mistakes. Everyone does. I change my mind when I face reasonable arguments. So please, challenge me. Challenge my opinions and my decisions.

When your only reaction is venting in front of your colleagues then you do no good to me, to the company and, most importantly, to yourself. What are you trying to achieve that way? Is that what you believe works in the long run? I mean, really?

If you choose being honest, be honest consequently. Being so only to some point is um… quite the opposite of being honest.

I have one more advice: even if you don’t trust your manager give them a try. Maybe they won’t appreciate your open and straightforward attitude. In such case your situation will suck anyway so you don’t lose much. Fortunately, there are many managers who don’t work that way and you just can’t lose being honest with them.

Like me, for example.

in: communication, personal development

5 comments… add one

  • Le Do Hoang Long July 12, 2011, 12:01 am

    @Pawel: we all need honesty. I myself once suffer much because of not being honest. After that, I commit myself for clear & honest communication.

    But in some cases, it’s not the matter that you intend to tell the truth or not. Unclear communication can cause misunderstanding & damage trust, too. Communication can be really a pain, especially to a already hurt relationship/environment. No matter how hard you try, since trust is lost, it’s very hard to make people think that you are sincere with them.

    I’m beginning to think it will take several years to change the fact. But I think it’s worth.

  • Dave Moran July 12, 2011, 4:17 am


    I agree, honesty is the best policy! Your post is spot-on; I too want to hear from people if they disagree with me. I’d be interested in your take on building an environment where people feel secure enough to talk candidly. Personally, I feel that management has a role in building trust goes hand-in-hand with honesty, and some managers have some blind spots in this regard…

  • Pawel Brodzinski July 12, 2011, 10:50 am

    @Le Do Hoang Long – You’re right. One thing is intention of honesty and another one is communication quality. Often, even if we try to be open and straightforward we are misunderstood and the effect is opposite to what’s been planned.

    And yes, once we ruin trust it is so damn hard to rebuild it.

  • Pawel Brodzinski July 12, 2011, 11:00 am

    @Dave – You ask difficult questions :) Basically what you, as a manager want, is honesty. However on the other hand you are going to use information you learn to make specific decisions, especially regarding promotions, raises etc. If you’re out of luck layoffs will be involved as well.

    This basically makes people feel insecure by default – how can I tell my boss about my mistakes when he’s going to use it against me.

    A simple rule is to never use the information you get against the person who you got it from. It’s definitely not enough though. Actually, at this very moment, I’m trying hard to build such environment so that’s a kind of story to tell. So far with no end yet. What more, so far with pretty little success.

    In short: it all boils down to people and their surroundings. If you are one of them they accept you easier — you start with a kind of trust relationship after all. If you don’t change organization culture much it’s easier as changes aren’t that deep. If the group is small it should be fine since you have more time for every single person so building relations with them goes way faster.

    Now, if you are a parachute manager who is trying to introduce big organizational change and leads 150 people it’s kind of challenge indeed. The story will probably be long though.

  • John Cieślik-Bridgen February 10, 2012, 5:41 am

    True story: a friend of mine was teaching in a remote community in a country far away, when he noticed that one of the 30+ students in his class was standing up.

    “Why are you standing?” he asked.
    “Your lesson is very important for me, but it is also very boring” was the reply. “I’m standing so that I don’t fall asleep”.

    When we give honest feedback – it will often hurt. But consider this instance. The student has also established a baseline of honesty. I’ve witnessed clients listening to lies, sugared words, half-truths, flattery when things have gone wrong. Almost all of the time people will see this for what it is. Building trust after this point is next to impossible.

    Deliver the hard message. The truth. Even when it hurts.

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