Sometimes in business you have to face the hard truth. Rather than pretending it doesn’t exist or citing alternative facts, the best way to handle an inconvenient truth is to deal with it head on. Are your sales figures down? Has there been a workplace injury or food poisoning outbreak linked to your company? As tempted as you might be to pretend it didn’t happen or try to pass the blame, the best thing you can do is to be honest. People often say it’s not the mistake that matters but the way in which you deal with it and this has never rung more true. When employees or people lose faith in their bosses and leaders the outcome is never good and some sort of revolt will usually follow.
As we saw just this weekend with President Trump, failure to face up to facts can end up making a situation worse. When the White House press secretary was asked about photos and transportation figures that showed attendance at his inauguration was significantly lower than for President Obama, he went on the attack blaming journalists who were called ‘among the most dishonest human beings on Earth’ while insisting that the audience was the ‘biggest ever’ for a Presidential inauguration. A top aide later tried to defend this statement, citing ‘alternative facts’ – a phrase which has brought further ridicule and prompted questions over whether or not the Trump administration can be trusted.
"Alternative Facts" Can Damage Your Business Reputation
What happens when people lose faith in their leaders or bosses get caught in lies - is there any way to win back trust? Pam Rogerson, HR Director for the ELAS Group, says: “In any walk of life building trust after a lie is going to be an uphill struggle. It’s not simply a case of apologise and get over it. Employees can vote with their feet as can clients, customers and business partners.
“We’re not necessarily just talking about lying; throwaway comments can be just as damaging as a lie when it comes to reputation. As we all know ‘Doing a Ratner’ is still slang for a massive error in judgement; when Gerald Ratner made his throwaway ‘joke’ about the quality of his jewellery he saw £500 million wiped off the value of his company and lost his job.
“The success or failure of a business lies with the owner. Good leaders inspire their employees and take responsibility for their decisions and actions. It’s not hard to anticipate the effects of being caught in a lie. In order to recover from it you will have to admit to the lie, apologise then work on rebuilding trust. Acknowledge the issue in hand and people’s concerns by having an adult conversation, enabling people to raise their concerns so you can work through them. People appreciate honesty and will be disappointed and/or resentful when they don’t receive it. If left to bubble under the surface then this will worsen over time; addressing concerns and showing evidence of integrity and transparency in the decisions that you make going forward will help build/rebuild relationships. Being seen to accept the costs to oneself for the benefit of others can also help, as being selfless can often go some way towards helping rebuild respect.
“There is nothing wrong with publicly advertising the good things you do within an organisation in the hope that these will far outweigh the negatives. Make sure that you follow through and do what you say you are going to do as people trust leaders based on their ability to deliver what they have promised.
“When people lose faith in their leaders there is a sense of frustration, resentment and disappointment. It’s your role as leader to overcome this. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s how you acknowledge and overcome them that is most important now. Don’t be disheartened if not everyone believes in you. Above all recognise that it will take time to rebuild trust, this will be time well spent.”