I (Andrea) like honesty. Then again, who doesn’t? I love it when people are honest. Not mean, nasty, brutally honest. Just honest. In college, I took English and Art classes. My whole day was about creation and critique. It’s not for everyone. You cannot have a thin skin and be in a creative niche.
Being honest was a struggle for most of my fellow students. In photography class, we’d develop our photos and then pin them to this huge wall. Then we’d sit back and critique each other. My professor probably wanted to have a stroke, because no one could ever say anything bad. Eventually he banned everyone from starting a critique with “I like it.” They weren’t all masterpieces. It was so frustrating that eventually I went up to him after a class and asked, Can you please give me an honest critique about my photos? He told me that they weren’t very creative. They were boring. There wasn’t anything visually interesting about them.
Many people would have become enraged. (In fact, I did see plenty of people get mad after critiques in classes.) I thanked him. I was happy. Because now that my problems were identified, I could go about fixing them. That’s the whole point of the critique!
Forward ahead several years. I’ve graduated and have found a job working for an insurance company. It was a decent job. Not spectacular, but good enough and I was learning a lot. I adored my department. It was like having a second family.
There were plenty of struggles within the company, though, and one day my boss, a VP, had had enough. He quit and took a job halfway across the country. We were pretty overwhelmed by it. His replacement was someone from a different department. He was okay. We all knew him, and although we may not have been best pals, we figured we could work with him.
He brought us into his office one by one, and let us know that this wasn’t going to be an easy transition. He knew there were struggles, and he wanted us to be honest about what the problems were so that he could fix them. Great! He was going to listen to us! So I explained to him the things we had problems with. What was going wrong. How we felt (at least from my perspective) things should be. I left his office feeling pretty positive.
A few days later I was called into HR and was told I no longer had a job. Completely out of the blue. She tried to tell me it was because I was late too many times (as a salaried employee, working all the time). My department was shocked as I walked through the cubes, angry, hurt, telling each one of them goodbye.
I knew what it was. I had been too honest. When someone asked me what the problem was, I told the truth. But it wasn’t the truth that he wanted to hear.
There is a fine line for most people when they are asking you a question. You want to answer with honesty, but you have to edit yourself. You have to decide what it is that they’re really asking you. What are they really trying to find out? My new boss wasn’t looking for what the problems were. He was looking for who they were, because it’s easier to get rid of people than to solve the problem.
Always be honest when dealing with clients, friends, family. But understand where that honesty could lead you in your relationships, and make sure you know exactly what you’re being asked before you answer.
Frankie and Andrea take turns sharing stories. Just good talk over a cup of coffee.