Wouldn’t work be better if we all stopped lying?

Glenn thinks we lie compulsively at work and asks if life wouldn’t be better if we just stopped lying?

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DisruptHR is a unique event. With events all around the world, it’s a format more similar to standup comedy than a normal corporate presentation. 16 presenters, each with just 5 minutes each. You get 20 slides and they auto-advance every 15 seconds. So once the starting gun has gone, you’re not in control.

In this thought-provoking and occasionally quite funny Disrupt HR talk, Glenn Elliott asks the obvious “Wouldn’t work be better if we all stopped lying?”. He calls bulls*t on our normal practices of teaching children interview technique “educational code for showing a version of yourself that is not really true”.

Watch Glenn’s DisruptHR talk here in full.

This video, recorded at the London DisruptHR event was the most viewed DisruptHR talk globally the week it was published online.

Or read the full transcript

Yeah, so I’ve been writing this book for the last couple years, it’ on  Amazon now, you can buy it, which is  great.

It’s all about rebels, and this talks is about rebels. It’s also about employee engagement.

But the thing I really kind of learned writing it was how much of employee engagement is down to trust or the lack of it, because we keep lying all the time. Put your hand up if you would describe yourself openly as a liar. Okay, there’s a couple of you which is honest, which is kind of interesting.

Lying is kind of something that we’re just doing all the time at work and I’ve become a bit obsessed about wouldn’t work be better if we all stopped lying?

If I asked you to put your hand up if you always told the whole truth, nothing but the truth, no gloss, no filter, no nothing in HR, I don’t think I’d get that many hands, because that’s what we do in HR and in business normally, we kind of make people read between the lines and we cover things up and we don’t really say the right thing.

The problem with this is, it means that half of our staff don’t trust anyone at work, like anyone. They don’t trust their colleagues, their peers, their managers or the company.

This is not fake news, it’s from Ernest and Young, it’s expensive fake news but it’s fine.

We lie all the time. We lie all the time.

We lie when we cover things up, we lie when we gloss over stuff, we lie in the odd things that we say to people which is not really true. I kind of think, where does it start and how does it come from and why are we so afraid of the truth?

We start at school and college and what we call career counselling, which is educational code for lying at an interview.

It’s where we train, we actually train children to go to a job and present the version of themselves which is not true and then the employer comes and presents a ridiculous facet of the job which isn’t true either.

We say that we want a product manager that’s got great usability and great agile, the truth is the product sucks, no one buys it, we don’t know what to do.

We can’t just say that and then we’re amazed when we get the wrong people in the wrong jobs. This is one of the cruelest lies in business, we want to offer you a permanent role. There’s no such f*cking thing. There hasn’t been for decades, yeah? Basically jobs with benefits, jobs without, that’s the truth.

I remember my first day at work, I was 19, I’m given the employee handbook. I was oh great, it’s a book to tell me how to be successful.

Oh my God, everything’s about being fired and disciplined, it was horrible,I’ve never ever seen so biggest lies. Then we have this ridiculous thing we call professionalism.

One of my darkest days at Reward Gateway was seeing a job of our own that said, you must have a “professional demeanour”. I’m like, oh my God, what have we become? This is about like saying don’t be human, don’t do anything you do at home, be this bizarre version of yourself.

Then God, we talk some shit about employee engagement.

I met someone last week who said, my engagement was good, it’s 86. I’m like, that’s like saying the meaning of life’s 42.

What’s that even mean? It makes no sense at all.

Oh my God, we lie, lie, lie when people leave.

This week, like a gift for this talk, Lego did the most incredible thing. They fired the CEO after eight months and they actually came out with a line that said :

it’s not humiliation for him, it’s not about performance, it’s just because he’s old.

I’m like, 1. it’s illegal, 2. it’s wrong and 3. it’s a lie. You just hired him eight months ago, were you surprised at how old he was?

“Oh my God, we didn’t think to ask.”

The trouble with this is, everyone knows when we’re lying and we write this shit in HR.

You write this stuff about how he’s gone to spend more time with his family. No one believes us. At worst they think we’re lying and at best they think we’re stupid.

How can this work?? Like how can anyone belong to an organization and bring their whole self to work if they can’t trust anyone and they can’t trust any word that comes out of our mouths? I wanted to leave you with three simple things that we can do to kind of stop the lies.

  1. The first thing is, share business results openly, by product, by department, by divisions, tell everyone how the company’s doing, what product’s succeeding, what product’s failing because if we don’t give our staff the information and the education to use this, how can they possibly help us to make our business right? They can handle the truth.
  2. Default to transparency. Everything starts out as transparent and communicated and then you just make things secret. If you absolutely have to, if you absolutely have to, that’s one of the most important things, you can use Slack, you can use Google Doc and you can make everything public and cut all the bullshit out.
  3. When you find yourself writing these ridiculous sentences and glossing over stuff that’s happened and not telling the truth, stop it. Just think about it. No one believes me and I look stupid when I say this. Don’t do it.

If you do that, you’ll get a really great foundation. The bedrock is Open & Honest Communication, this is everything else you need to do. Think about it, which is frankly common sense but I had to write a whole book about it because common sense isn’t common practice.

If you do that, then things will be really good and we’ll have better places to work and our companies will be more successful and we’ll make the world a better place to work

We use the lovely people at Rev.com for transcripts and video captions. They are awesome, give them a try. They didn’t pay us to write that, we just really like them.

Glenn's first book, the international HR bestseller, Build it : A Rebel Playbook for Employee Engagement is available on Kindle, iBooks and from any major bookseller worldwide.

© 2018 Glenn Elliott.

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