The Importance of Open and Honest Communication in an Employment Relationship

by | Jan 24, 2020 | Australia, Communication

Undoubtedly it will take some getting used to, having a support worker living and working with you in the same house. In this situation, even more so than other employment relationships, open and honest communication is crucial to building strong, healthy relationships.

Research shows that there are 3 levels of honest communication:

  • Reactive honesty:
    • People wait to share their ideas until someone specifically asks for them
    • People will be honest once asked, but otherwise keep information to themselves
  • Proactive honesty:
    • People share their opinions and ideas freely, without prompting
    • Issues are proactively discussed, before major problems arise
  • Foreshadowing honesty:
    • People openly discuss potential problems that might occur down the road
    • Constantly think ahead, sharing ideas that might help in the future.

To achieve this ‘holy grail’ of honest communication; foreshadowing communication, here are some suggestions:

  1. A safe environment: people need to feel safe to be able to share their ideas and opinions. Your live-in carer needs to feel confident that they won’t be penalised or ostracised for sharing unpopular ideas or negative feedback.
  2. Benefits or rewards: if your care professional sees that being honest and open about specific challenges creates positive change in their every day routines, they’ll continue to share their ideas.
  3. Quality time: quality time, like the weekly meeting, should be set aside for honest communication. This should not only be an opportunity to ‘debrief’ on the issues at hand, but should enable your carer to open up about issues and concerns they may have.
  4. Open-ended questions: it might sound simple, but asking open-ended questions is crucial for foreshadowing honesty. People are most likely to share ideas or talk about challenges if they’re asked open-ended questions that foster discussion.
  5. Risk tolerance: a culture of risk tolerance promotes the free sharing of information and ideas, because people aren’t afraid to rock the boat.

Your right and your care professional’s right to deliver open and honest communication is not a license to say whatever you/they want, whenever you want. Open communication is to an employment relationship what free speech is to the democracy. Yes, observations and insights are wanted and needed, but there is way to go about communicating without criticism.

Open communication can and should be met with an equal degree of open communication from the person you’re giving feedback to. This improves the integrity and equal exchange of feedback. The point is that feedback typically generates an intellectual and emotional response. The more objective your feedback, the more objective the response.

By definition, open communication requires at least two individuals. When communication breaks down, it’s typically the result of failures on both sides. Avoid pointing fingers towards any single individual. And recognise that change will require effort on the part of all team members.