Everyone has secrets. I am not eluding to the dark and wicked ones, but those that we never utter to save ourselves from pain. Then there are some we keep safe to protect others; at least we think that would save them.
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We had such a secret in our family. We held from our father big secret thinking that we were doing him right, believing it would save him. That secret cost him his life.
This incident left me with a growing belief that we have no right to hold critical information from anyone that directly impacts them.
On that note, let’s pivot to the work space.
We need transparency with the most painful facts with relentless candour.
I am not referring to the noble trait of being honest. Honesty is telling the truth. Transparency isn’t the same as honesty. For instance, you could speak the truth to a child that water boils at 100° C. Transparency requires exposing the impact of the fact. I am referring to a level of openness which allows the person impacted to make the right choice. Expressing to the child to be careful with hot water, for instance, is a level of transparency that is required to everyone who is directly impacted.
I was one of the leads for managing a large outsourcing operation for one of the major company that I worked. The project was coded and was only shared within a small circle of people. As the project progressed, the employee impact became evident. Those people who were to be impacted were not strangers but were those with whom I was working regularly. I was sworn to secrecy, so I could not warn them. As the old Persian expression goes, ‘love and fragrance cannot be hidden for long,’ not just the news about the operation, but several version of the operation got out. The leadership team denied the ‘rumours’ not only to the staff but blatantly denied it to the media as well. The entire facade came to a shameful climax when the legalities of the operation were complete, and the project was officially disclosed.
Trust within every level evaporated immediately. The engagement was shattered. Morale was at an all-time low. With an unengaged staff, the current operation was done half-heartedly, error rates went through the roof. The business suffered a lot, but they could not do much about it other than pushing to get the outsourcing done at the earliest.
If you turn the pages of most of the business strategy PowerPoint deck, you will find many highlighted bullet points around revenue uplift, cost reduction, market share penetration, client experience, and many other buzz-words. All these points are critical, and I use them as well. But I have come to realize that we seem to miss a very crucial piece across all strategy – the strategy for Transparency. Transparency should not be optional but interlocked with the overall strategy of an organization. It should move beyond the core value and should sit with the whole approach to conducting business.
Information if held for legal and privacy reason is understandable. However, I think we hide crucial information from those potentially impacting parties out of fear, perhaps rightly, that team members might start to jump ship or leak the information to the media prematurely. We may think we are keeping them safe by keeping them in the dark, but often some twisted version of the truth always spills. But what happens when the rubber hits the ground? The distrust seeps in quickly. Skepticism drive down employee engagement and spikes turnover.
Transparency’s harder at first, but if woven within the business practices and culture, it’s immensely powerful, and it will have an almost unbelievably positive impact to the bottomline.
Success to you!