Your first thought might have been – oxymoronic. But lets not be quite so cynical.

While we do wish to speak about communicating with honesty and integrity, in this section we are not going to discuss the larger question of truth and honesty in corporate communications – marketing and brand and issues management; that is the subject of another book entirely. We should say however that if you find you are working for an organization whose ethics and values (behaved, not espoused) differ significantly from your own ethical standards, then you should consider finding a new employer more congruent with your values.

And we’re not talking here about effective employee communications – the problem of how does the organization leadership communicate fully, openly and honestly in every situation. There are times when an organization’s leadership cannot disclose the whole story all the time for strategic, confidentiality or privacy reasons. Employees need to accept this fact of life – that they may not be privy to all the information affecting decisions. They need to trust that senior leaders are acting in the best interests of all stakeholders (not just employees). Communication in the face of competing interests is often a juggling act. But if you find the decisions and actions, and communications, of the senior leadership are substantially and chronically skewed, in your view, from balance, you may need to find a new employer.

Of course the challenge for a conscientious employee is to have the courage to voice his or her concerns about the ethical decision making in his organization. But the art of tact and diplomacy in these circumstances is to know when to voice criticism and when to be silent.

The main point I want to make in this section is the problem of when and how to let senior leaders know your views and to provide challenging information on the decisions that they face. How do you play the ‘bearer of bad news’ role? Or ‘speak truth to power’?

– First, you have to know whether you have already built a reputation for being discrete and sensitive in guarding the organization’s information. Absent this trust you are not entitled to voice your opinion.
– Second, you need to have built a long-term reputation for being a trusted advisor – you have accumulated knowledge and wisdom and are respected for your judgment in the past on issues that affect the organization. Without credibility you are not entitled to voice your opinion.
– Third, you are thoroughly informed on the particulars of the point at issue and are well prepared to provide commentary and input. Shooting from the lip is not on.
– Fourth, you are sensitive to the self-esteem and reputation of the senior officers to whom you may be offering a contrary view. You must choose the context well – usually in a private one-on-one or small group setting. Never embarrass the boss in a public setting, especially if his superiors are present.
– Fifth, say your piece factually, logically, completely, and then shut up about it. There is no point becoming argumentative.
– Sixth, paraphrase and summarize the outcome if you can but accept the decision that has been made.
– Seventh, see point 1!

If you are interested in exploring these ideas further AFS Consulting has a program for you delivered in one-on-one coaching modality: Mastering the Art of Tact and Diplomacy. Check it out here: