We All Want Transparency in the Workplace, But is it Possible to Have Too Much?

By Sara Pollock

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Employees in your organization want to be communicated with openly, companies are boasting the policies that support this style. This is due in part to findings from reports saying 46% of employees are seeking new employment because of their current organization's lack of transparent leadership

As with any employee management tactic, the practice is far more complicated in implementation. We talk a lot about balance, in diet, leisure and so on. When it comes to a career, we often associate the term with its relationship to work and life. Of course, if asked about transparency in the workplace, more often than not the simple answer is, “we want more, more, more.” And, just like anything else deemed desirable, the answer should be, “we want more balance.”

Embracing Transparency

Recently, Business Insider took a deep look at Bridgewater Associates, a billion dollar company of 1,700 employees who take their recruiting process very seriously. It takes hours, surveys, personality assessments and phone interviews to be deemed a cultural fit for the organization. They call it “radical transparency,” a term that refers to the practice of encouraging employees to constantly challenge each other and reflect on decisions and mistakes. They choose a sometimes painful approach because of the company’s devotion to constant improvement. Subordinates challenge the decisions of leaders and vice versa. No one is immune and that means everyone experiences progress.

This linear approach to feedback is considered desirable because it is believed to build better company alignment along with development. Studies have shown that 97% of employees and executives believe a lack of alignment impacts the outcome of a task or project. However, businesses with effective communication are 50% more likely to have lower employee turnover. Projects are more efficient and employees are more connected to their responsibilities, growing individual accountability.

The Downfall of Too Much Transparency

The statistics all point to the need for more organizational alignment and feedback between leadership and employees. The immediate thought would be to up the transparency, be quicker to provide real-time feedback and be far more open about the state of the business, right? Yes and no.

Yes, employees are all but begging for more feedback from their managers and most managers are open to hearing input from their employees, but the approach Bridgewater Associates takes to building organizational structures isn’t for everyone. In fact, even they admit to the complications it can have on some individuals, which is exactly why their candidate assessment process is so rigorous.

One problem with too much transparency is it tends to lead to over-sharing company affairs. Business owners have a responsibility to their employees to disclose problems that might lead to employee dismissals, but discussing every loss, financial struggle or employee salary could lead to unrest, loss of confidence and detrimental competition among employees.

Additionally, just as demonstrated by Bridgewater’s recruitment process, the practice of complete transparency just doesn’t sit well with every personality. Diversity of thought is important in company innovation, so isolating one type of worker could hinder your business, especially in creative or people-focused industries.

Finding Balance

It’s important that we understand that when employees say they want transparency, they mean they want more communication with leadership and clarity around how their job duties align with overall company goals. Employees also desire management that takes ownership of mistakes and thoroughly explains policy adjustments in advance. The level of transparency your organization enacts is dependent on your company culture and the people who work within your walls. If every step is made with the satisfaction and development of your workforce in mind, your workforce will respond with loyalty and dedication.

If you’re interested in building a talent alignment process that satisfies both your employees and executives, download our ultimate guide to growing your talent using talent alignment tools and processes.

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