“Truth prevails by itself, lies always require complicity.”
Epicteto de Frigia
Usually when facing change, speculation and gossip arises in organizations. And, what organization today isn’t facing a major change, either in generation, in its structure or of definition of their business model? Practically all organizations are facing major changes, because reality has become much more complex. Therefore businesses need more flexibility to continue to fulfill their purpose.
In this context, uncertainty manifests with gossip and speculation, as if we avoid talking about the issues we must talk about. It is common to hire PR agencies or Marcom experts and to define which are the messages that should feed the system. This works, but not in the best possible ways. The reason why an individual decides to speculate and create an alternative scenario is precisely because he or she doesn’t knows what reality is. What motivates us, as employees of an organization, to speculate is our need to have a context, a reference that makes us feel secure.
Speculation arises when facing uncertainty, but the safest avenue to a good business climate amidst uncertainty is the truth. This is also true in our personal and social lives. Even though truth might hurt, it is the most efficient way to face any complex situation. While speaking about this, I like to use the ocean’s analogy: it’s as if on the surface there is a strong storm, but at the bottom there is absolute calmness. It’s similar in an environment of uncertainty. When we engage in gossip, we enter the storm and we distance ourselves from the truth, from the bottom. So, how do we deal with those behaviors even when we, as leaders, have uncertainty? For example , if I don’t know if I will be the next CEO or if there will be an important layoff; or if I know that, because the company needs to face strategic decisions, they will fire some of my colleagues; then how do I behave so I am not perceived as someone who betrays and keeps secrets? How do we stay in the calm bottom, rather than at the storm of the surface? There is a very simple step: ask for the facts. This is the question that grounds us and, as a safety valve makes the weight get back into the bottom, allows us to stay connected with reality.
When a colleague says: “They’re saying Juan is going to get fired because Pedro is much better.” And you answer: “Really? Tell me more!” When you get hooked in the conversation, what you are doing is climbing to the surface, feeling as if circumstances are stormy. Reality can be stormy, but it can also be calm . The question that will take you to the bottom of the ocean is: What are the facts? In what facts are you basing your arguments? These are the questions that make differences lose significance. It is a question we usually don’t answer because, by being at the surface, we blame the storm for our decisions. When I stop assuming, when I am in the calmness of the bottom and I check with reality, then I’m the one who has to make the decisions based on what is important to me, because I’m not in the storm.
In later posts we will talk a bit more about assumptions and their impact within organizations.