An emerging trend that’s placed transparency at the heart of most business operations today has taken ahold of the market, but is total transparency in all matters really the best course of action at the workplace? Amidst the ongoing “transparency boom” that’s enrapturing the market and the field of HR, many are starting to question the fundamentals underlying our belief that transparency is always the best policy.
So, what’s the truth behind transparency? Should companies be championing openness, or is there a limit to how publicly we should be airing our dirty laundry? A review into the ongoing transparency-culture boom reverberating through the market shows that there’s no clear answer to these questions, but that experts are increasingly beginning to question to idea of constant, radical honesty.
Is honesty always the best policy?
Virtually everyone in the civilized world is raised from a young age to believe that honesty is the best policy – we’re chided for lying to our parents and teachers as children, are reminded to be honest entering our teens, and are bombarded by lectures and discussions on transparency before entering the workplace. Nonetheless, the prevailing assumption that honesty is always the best policy could be harming certain businesses, and could be generating more problems than it’s solving when it comes to workplace culture, too.
You don’t have to go far to find a listicle telling you how to boost, bolster, or embrace transparency in the workplace, and for good reason; it seems like common sense that our modern business environments should be dominated by the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Telling the truth widely to anyone who cares to hear it can have unforeseen negative consequences, however; consider, for instance, the cultural implications of enforcing massive transparency in the workplace. Some workers will feel uncomfortable being forced to learn about others dirty laundry, and more importantly will feel even more uncomfortable telling others intimate secrets about themselves.
Oversharing, in other words, can make things rather awkward for a great many people in your workspace. The tight bond between employees is imperative for any business’ success, and you don’t want to ruin your workplace’s atmosphere by forcing your employee to obey intense transparency regimes that demand full-throated participation and vulnerability from all your workers.
Of course, this doesn’t mean your organization should abandon transparency entirely – such an assertion would be utterly ridiculous, and hurt your company tremendously morally, culturally, and financially. What should be gleamed from this, however, is that a stifling culture of radical transparency that ceaselessly demands employees open up and make themselves vulnerable will similarly stymy your business in the long run, and should be avoided.
Finding the right amount of transparency
While it may seem odd, the reality that most HR departments must face is finding the right amount of transparency to give good feedback without forcing a culture of radical honesty upon everyone. HR staffers should take plenty of time to review the instances in which transparency can backfire, and work to ensure their departments aren’t putting in place any transparency regimes that are ultimately hostile to the interests of the company and its workers alike.
In the digital age, you’ll be easily tempted to employ a software-based solution that scoops up mountains of data from your employees that can later be used for performance reviews. While your company shouldn’t hesitate to arm itself with the latest tech in order to remain competitive in the crowded marketplace, it should pause before embarking upon a digitally-focused transparency effort that may lose the forest for the trees and inadvertently put human considerations last instead of first.
Rather than accidentally create a culture of ceaseless blaming or inadvertently force your employees to turn against one another in pursuit of their own interests, HR officials should strive to foster transparency where it matters, like preventing executives who have committed sexual harassment from hiding behind corporate regulations to evade justice. HR practitioners should remember that at the root of all transparency initiatives is a desire to make people in the workplace more equal and to eliminate the unfair advantages that often surround the privileged few at the top, and they’ll be well on their way towards ushering in the right kind of transparency while avoiding calamity.
Don’t let excuses that you’re fostering transparency allow your company to issue blunt statements that may weaken workplace morale or mistakenly cast the blame on a specific worker. Rather, focus your efforts on truly emphasizing empathy and spreading knowledge, such as the use of a mobile cmms, that everyone within your company needs to know, and your transparency efforts will be much more likely to succeed without backfiring. Total transparency may not be the best course of action, but don’t let that discourage you from creating a more open and equal workplace; radical honesty isn’t the best policy, but by championing the truth and fairness alike, your business will be greatly improved.
I'm a creative and passionate HR Director with 15 plus years proven experience up to board level in international and world-class organisations.
I have had the privilege of working on a wide range of projects that have enabled me to apply my leadership and technical skills and I have proven expertise in managing change, business integration and outsourcing, including TUPE/ARD. I am currently looking for my next intellectual and professional challenge.