CX Culture

What is Candor and How to Implement It in Your Organization

How do you define candor? What is candor in the workplace? Candor is defined as the quality of being open, honest, and sincere. Many people feel this is the opposite of their workplace.

In a poll conducted by the Harvard Business Review around cultures of candor in business, 100% of those surveyed used words such as “cloudy” and “opaque” to describe the culture of their organizations. One went so far as to use the term “mushroom farm,” meaning they were “kept in the dark and fed manure.”

Why You Need Candor In The Workplace

Some leaders decide to keep knowledge to themselves because they feel it gives them more control, authority, or even protection by others from finding out about their mistakes. But, problems are harder to hide than ever before.  All it takes is one person with a smartphone and a social media account to turn secrets into scandals, viewable by thousands or millions of people.

When you maintain a culture of radical transparency in the workplace, you maximize resources.

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It might feel good to be the only person “in the know,” but when you seek input from your team at large, you also benefit from their knowledge and expertise.

Staff members have great ideas and are eager to contribute. Because of their different backgrounds and experience, they can spot procedural troubles that you might overlook. Front-line teams have unique insight into your customers’ psyches that can only be found by interacting with them every day. This 360° flow of information allows you to make smarter decisions, and design systems that address the most pressing needs of your customers and your business.

Honest Feedback Improves Employee Engagement

In contrast to the tight-lipped leader, some may want to be more open and communicative, but struggle to overcome the awkwardness that often accompanies candor in the workplace. They don’t want to risk their openness being perceived as criticism, and potentially hurting feelings. This empathy is noble, but often misguided. It might even be counterproductive.

According to OfficeVibe’s State of Employee Engagement survey, 83% said they loved to receive feedback, regardless of whether it was positive or negative.

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Furthermore, 62% said they wished they received more feedback from their co-workers so they could continue to excel and build upon performance. In their opinion, an open feedback loop would make them feel more cared about by management, and more engaged within their organization. Engaged employees pay greater attention to their work and do a better job than those who are bored and detached.

For a culture of candor to truly be effective, feedback should be directed upward as well. When staff members feel secure enough to voice their concerns, it builds trust. Issues that arise and affect employee morale can be brought into the open, discussed, and rectified if needed. When your team feels like they must stay silent about issues that arise, they can become angry and resentful. This discord is contagious, and can easily spread throughout the department or across an organization, resulting in increased turnover.


A policy of silence can turn relatively minor grievances into deeply entrenched organization-wide beliefs, and no one wants that. 

Candor in the workplace might be difficult at first, but it allows you to solve problems while they are still small, and before resentment has grown. 

Customer service isn’t a simple or easy job, and doing whatever possible to  support your team won’t go unnoticed, by staff and customers alike. 

How To Create A Culture Of Candor In The Workplace

A culture of candor is created from the top down. Leaders must set the tone for everyone else to follow. If you’re honest, open and regularly admit to errors or blindspots, you’ll give your staff the confidence to do the same. Support them and encourage them to bring up issues that arise, since many employees fear the repercussions of making a mistake or making an issue known. 

Leaders who exhibit candor as a quality are often seen as more effective. According to a study by Joseph Folkman, a behavioral statistician, leaders exhibiting very poor candor (bottom 10%) were rated at the 20thpercentile on overall leadership effectiveness, while those at the top 10% were rated at the 80thpercentile. 

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Once issues are out in the open, you have control. You and your team have the opportunity to come together, identify the cause, and plan to do better next time.

Many people hide their real thoughts and feelings at work because they’re afraid they will alienate their boss and coworkers.

Unfortunately, if the issue is important, it will probably cause great interpersonal strain to repress it. This internal tension only builds over time.

This vicious cycle can end up affecting the person’s health. It also lowers office morale, since employees may express their issues to everyone but the leaders who could fix it. The situation continues to worsen, when a frank and sincere discussion could solve it. Even if a solution isn’t obvious, feeling heard and understood is a big step towards rebuilding. 

Finally, there are those managers who would rather delay giving negative feedback out of a confused pursuit of kindness. This might actually be the worst thing you can do for your low-performing employees. If you don’t say anything, or your feedback is too vague, how could an employee ever improve?

Withholding honest feedback isn’t kindness; rather, giving it is a sign that you care about your team and your business. You’re helping your erring staff member grow professionally and hone their skills. Your business benefits from their improved performance, and saves the cost of hiring and training someone new.  

Examples Of Implementing Candor In The Workplace 

There’s an art to candor in the workplace, and a way to deliver feedback effectively. Here are few examples of implementing candor in the workplace:

  • First and foremost, criticize the work, not the individual.
  • Give your feedback as soon as possible after a triggering event.
  • Feedback should focus on actions they can take next, and constructive suggestions on how they can improve.
  • Setting specific and measurable short-term goals can also be helpful.


If you still find it tough to operate with candor in the workplace, why not talk to another manager or business coach? You can role-play having these difficult conversations until it feels natural. Delivering critical messages in a positive way (and without being hurtful) takes practice.

It’s a good idea to start the conversation with the negative feedback. Drawing out the suspense isn’t helpful to either party. State your case clearly and directly, without being unnecessarily personal or harsh. Once you get the hard part out of the way, you may find the person accepts what you’re saying better than you’d anticipated. If the opposite is true, you can quickly move on to the solution without wasting time. 

Creating a culture of candor takes commitment, consistency and hard work, but it fosters a healthy and supportive business environment sturdy enough to grow upon.

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