“I am not at liberty to share that information.” Have you ever heard a co-worker or supervisor utter this phrase? How did you feel? For most, there is an immediate sense of discomfort. You know something is up, and it drives you a little crazy that you don’t know what it is. Whether the delivery is explicit or thinly veiled in avoidance, the resulting message is the same: I cannot or will not trust you with this information.
When information is not readily shared in organizational life, the human brain will do its best to understand what’s missing. We invent stories to fill the voids. It’s hard not to feel like the secrecy must mean something – suspicion starts creeping in. Whether we want it to or not, the “meaning-making” mind will eventually settle on a theory that explains both why details are being withheld, and what the omissions might actually be. Bottom line: secrecy breeds distraction, encourages misinformation and corrodes relationships in the workplace.
The solution to these troubling consequences is easier than you might think: choose transparency. Whether it is with the people who report to you, stakeholder groups or your customers, transparency is the way to go. In fact, an article recently published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization found that transparent leaders generate significantly more cooperation, greater consistency from team members and even higher earnings.
Information is power – share it and watch loyalty, engagement and inspiration grow. With the advantages so great and the downsides truly negligible, why not choose transparency today?
The next time you’ve got information worth sharing, use the following steps to reverse engineer greater transparency in the workplace.