How Transparent Should You Be In The Office?

Transparency is a crucial leadership attribute that helps build trust and promote a high-office performance culture. However, while demonstrating openness in everything you do is good, complete transparency may not always be appropriate.

In some cases, being overtly transparent is a recipe for disaster. For example, reporting bad news as soon as you hear it could lead to panic and speculation before the situation has had time to stabilise. At the same time, you don’t want to hold back or cover up bad news, hoping that things will return to normal. How do you strike a balance between the two? When is it better to be more transparent, and when should you refrain from sharing? The quick answer is, ‘It depends on the situation.’ Here are some questions that can help you decide on how much to share, how much is too much, and when to share it.

๐—ค๐Ÿญ. ๐—œ๐˜€ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐˜‚๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ณ๐˜‚๐—น ๐˜„๐—ถ๐˜๐—ต๐—ผ๐˜‚๐˜ ๐—ฎ๐—ฑ๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ฎ๐—น ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜๐—ฒ๐˜…๐˜?

Some business information is only helpful with additional context and an overarching understanding of the situation. This is often why a company’s leadership team tends to hold back from publicising certain things. Ask yourself if sharing the information you possess requires clarification. Have you confirmed the accuracy of the information? How likely is it that the information youโ€™re about to share may change shortly?

๐—ค๐Ÿฎ. ๐—ช๐—ต๐—ผ ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ๐˜€ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—ธ๐—ป๐—ผ๐˜„ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป?

However, if you’re reporting on a situation to your manager or higher-ups, this question may not matter. A rule of thumb when reporting upwards is to be completely transparent. Report the truth and nothing but the truth, even if it doesn’t reflect well on you or your team. Being completely transparent with those you are accountable for/to will allow them to help you take corrective action as soon as possible.

Don’t keep your leader in the dark because you fear getting fired or reprimanded. Instead, begin your report with a neutralising statement like, “It is best that you know of this as soon as possibleโ€ฆ” to highlight how you’re taking responsibility for the situation and acting in good faith. Sharing the solutions you’ve devised to handle the problem will also help demonstrate initiative.

That said, there’s no need to report every single incident upwards. So, a good question you can ask yourself to avoid wasting your boss’s time with mundane issues is this: How helpful will the information you’re sharing be to them? If your information impacts your boss or organisation in any way โ€“ good or bad โ€“ deliver the news as honestly as possible.

๐—ค๐Ÿฏ. ๐—ช๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚ ๐˜๐—ผ๐—น๐—ฑ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ถ๐—ป ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ณ๐—ถ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ?

However, there is an exception to the rule: Confidential information should ALWAYS be shared on a need-to-know basis. If a co-worker tells you some personal information about themselves, like their financial struggles or a mental health condition, bear in mind that this information isn’t yours to share. The same principle also applies to confidential business information. In this case, there are many reasons why sharing such information is a bad idea. If you’re in charge of determining whether your business information should be confidential, consider this: Will you be comfortable having in-depth conversations or discussions about the information you’re about to present? If the answer is no, keep that information confidential until the answer becomes a yes.

๐—ค๐Ÿฐ. ๐—›๐—ฎ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐˜† ๐—ฒ๐˜๐—ต๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐˜€ ๐—ผ๐—ฟ ๐—ต๐˜‚๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—ป ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ต๐˜๐˜€ ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—บ๐—ฝ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐—บ๐—ถ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ฑ?

Most leaders and organisations choose to close one eye and tolerate the infractions of specific rules and regulations. This situation makes it difficult to demand high integrity from every employee. However, if any ethics or human rights have been compromised, even if the information was made in confidence, it is your responsibility to report the situation to the appropriate authorities. Report any questionable conduct or incident to your boss regarding minor ethical issues. In more severe cases, like bullying or sexual harassment, report to HR or escalate it for legal consideration.

Disregarding these horrible practices causes such behaviour to be propagated and normalised. If you are a leader, people are more likely to trust you if they know you won’t overlook or ignore such behaviour, no matter the offender’s rank. But this can also be tricky as you’ll want to ensure that allegations are discreetly investigated and only publicised as a warning for the safety and privacy of the victims and the reputation of the accused (if the allegations prove false).

There is no easy answer to how transparent you should be in any given circumstance. Still, the questions in this article can help you to consider your words carefully and work towards becoming more trustworthy and reliable at the workplace!

If youโ€™re looking for more career advice or human resource services to improve your work efficiency, contact our experienced consultants to learn more!

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