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Unlocking the Benefits of Transparency in the Workplace

Written by
George Dickson
George Dickson

You're not afraid of a little sunlight, are you? πŸ˜Ž

An increasing number of companies and employees across the world are warming up to the idea of transparency and embracing the benefits that come along with it.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the openness of transparency often provides a stronger sense of security for employees.

In their Harvard Business Review Article, Why Radical Transparency Is Good Business, Ryan Smith and Golnaz Tabibnia explain:

"Insights from neuroscience underscore that our brains work best when we no longer feel the need to hide, cover up our mistakes, or dwell on errors. We do better when we aren’t mentally bogged down in 'threat response' worrying about which of our colleagues is the boss’ 'flavor of the month,' getting a hasty promotion, or badmouthing our work."

Transparency at work: why it matters

For employees

Transparency makes it easier to reduce focus on office politics and lets the work speak for itself.

For example, Qualtrics embraces internal transparency by making employee performance data available to the entire team. Having insights regarding both the most and least successful projects available provides the team with examples to mimic, and examples to learn from.

This can be an incredibly valuable tool to help improve the overall effectiveness and avoid making the same mistakes more than once.

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For the public

Transparency inspires trust by showing that a company has nothing to hide. Better yet, many of these open organizations have some incredibly valuable insights to share. πŸ’‘

Buffer has famously taken a "Default to Transparency" stance, sharing everything from their revenue numbers to strategic successes and failures with the public. If you're curious about what's going on at Buffer, you can take a look at the Buffer Blog, where they share all these insights.

For many organizations, implementing openness at the level of Qualtrics or Buffer might be a difficult pill to swallow all at once.

A number of leaders are apprehensive about transparency, holding the assumption that lifting the veil on their operation would open Pandora's Box. Some employees fear that radical transparency around job performance has the potential to resemble Orwell's 1984, without proper oversight.

With that in mind, you might find it easier to introduce transparency incrementally.


3 steps to transparency at work

You don't have to dive in headfirst to experience transparency's benefits. It's easy enough to get started with just a few useful, yet non-invasive practices:

Share success πŸ’₯

If you're not ready to share everything, start with sharing your successes! Sharing wins, small and large, amongst your colleagues is a powerful motivator and inspires camaraderie.

Model this behavior yourself by regularly recognizing and celebrating the contributions your team makes on a daily basis.

Share goals and progress πŸ“ˆ

Setting effective, measurable, and attainable goals is a crucial skill for any employee. Sharing those goals openly amongst the team helps everyone maintain a good understanding of where each project sits.

Share challenges β›οΈ

How often have you faced a big challenge that was easier to solve alone? Sharing the challenges you face with your colleagues can give them an opportunity to offer creative solutions you may not have anticipated.

The takeaway

Transparency doesn't have to be radical to be useful. You can still benefit from taking a few steps at a time. Once you take those steps, you may realize that stepping out into the light is a great way to grow. 

Get more awesome employee engagement resources πŸ‘‡

2022 HR Leader Report

Originally published on May 13, 2015 β†’ Last updated March 9, 2022

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George Dickson

George is dedicated to strengthening organizational cultures with thoughtful leadership and frequent recognition. George formerly managed content and community at Bonusly.


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