Coming back from my first monthly Director’s meeting at a former position, I had a decision to make. How much of the high level information I’d learned at the meeting should I share with my staff? On the drive back, I worked out my approach.
What I was grappling with was transparency. In a recent Forbes article, transparency is defined as “the practice of being open and honest with others, no matter how challenging it might be” (Atchison, 2021).
Transparency is one of the top factors consistently cited for employee satisfaction. The more transparent employees feel the management is, the more satisfied they are with their jobs. The benefits of transparency go far beyond job satisfaction, of course, contributing to a healthy culture, genuine relationships built on trust, more innovation, higher employee retention, and some say there’s a financial benefit to workplace transparency as well.
1. Make face to face interactions a priority. You can’t be transparent if you are behind a closed office door or unavailable on Teams. Management by walking around is a proven technique. If you make having personal interactions a regular effort and schedule it on your calendar, you’ll be amazed at the information you’ll gain. Then, act on the feedback you receive when you can. People will feel heard and valued.
2. Encourage honesty by your responses. If a co-worker or employee you manage shares an honest truth with you that you don’t necessarily welcome, thank them. You want to keep the open communication open.
3. Explain your decisions. Invite people to understand your thought process so they can see where your decisions are coming from. This doesn’t mean you have to waiver in your decisions, but providing context is a great way to increase transparency.
4. Prepare managers to answer tough questions. Let’s say the company is cutting back in some way. It’s inevitable that there will be questions. Managers need to know ahead of time how to answer so they don’t have to say they don’t know or that it came from higher up. In a transparent culture there is no reason to hide financial realities, but keep in mind that managers might not instinctively know the best way to phrase the answers.
5. Address difficult situations publicly. This requires some courage, but if you want to truly be transparent, talking about difficult situations as a team is one of the most powerful ways to build trust.
6. Keep people posted. Things will change, let people know. Share negative developments as quickly as positive developments. But don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” if you don’t know. That’s being truthful and authentic.
7. Know where to draw the line. Transparency is not about knowing everybody’s business. It’s about making sure everyone has the information they need to do their job effectively.
8. Hire people who value transparency. Have job candidates give examples of times when they chose transparency and it built trust among their coworkers. These are people you want on your team.
Arriving at the office, I’d decided to call a meeting after lunch to share the topics of discussion from the Director’s meeting with my team. The team listened with great attention and asked several questions. It became a routine to have a post-Director’s briefing. I couldn’t always share every detail as some topics had to do with personnel issues or issues we were asked specifically not to share, but my team knew I would share everything I could. After about the third briefing, one of my team members who had been with the organization for a very long time said she’d never felt so in the loop. There it was – confirmation that transparency was a valued part of our team’s culture.
Atchison, J. (2021, January 8). Four ways to create transparency in the workplace. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2021/01/08/four-ways-to-create-transparency-in-the-workplace/?sh=1d4445a07ff6
“Value Propositions” is brought to you by Lesa Hanlin (Lesa@Virginia.edu), Director of Strategic Initiatives, University of Virginia School of Continuing and Professional Studies. The topic of transparency is inspired by UVA’s Graduate Certificate in Leadership.