A few years back, transparency was a very popular topic of conversation. To the point where many felt company transparency had jumped the shark. Then it sorta stopped being discussed at all.
Well, the transparency conversation is back.
During this year’s Great Place to Work conference, I heard several speakers talk about the importance of transparency within their organizations. But I also heard a new dynamic in the company transparency conversation. Transparency can be good and not-so-good.
We have a tendency to think all transparency is good transparency and that might not be the case. In thinking about the concept that there are degrees of company transparency, I ran across this post on TLNT.com titled, “The Ugly Side of Transparency in the Workplace.” It’s a good read about the potential pitfalls of a transparent culture.
It’s important to note that acknowledging the potential downside to transparency isn’t an endorsement for being secretive. It’s also not a justification for not being transparent. Understanding the downside to transparency is an opportunity for self-awareness and education. Employees need to know what good transparency and not-so-good transparency look like.
Examples of good company transparency include public praise and sharing project information with everyone in the organization. Examples of not-so-good transparency are publicly shaming someone (even if they deserve the harsh words) and breaching confidences. Transparency is about being open but it’s also about practicing good judgement.
In looking back at the evolution of transparency, I wonder if one of the reasons that it left and has returned is because we’ve gotten smarter about it. By that I mean both the sender and receiver of information have benefited from the transparency conversation over the years. Both parties understand that transparency isn’t where someone is entitled to know “every thing about everything.” Transparency is about open communication, without surprises, that is delivered in an authentic and respectful way.
Speakers at the Great Place to Work conference reminded me that transparency is important. It tells customers, candidates and employees that they can trust the organization. It’s the foundation of the organization’s brand. Companies have reinitiated the transparency conversation and, this time, I’m not sure it will turn into a buzzword. I think it’s here to stay.
Image taken by Sharlyn Lauby in Miami’s Wynwood District1