Workplace transparency. Everyone wants it. In fact, most employees expect it. But are organizations obligated to share all information, all the time?

Transparency is defined within a business context as “ …the lack of hidden agendas or conditions as well as the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation and decision-making…

Transparency generally increases trust, empowers front-line employees and improves the quality and speed of decision-making. However, it also can be a distraction and a competitive disadvantage. How should companies balance the desire to know with the need to know? Consider these guidelines when determining what information to share, who to share it with and when to share it.

  • Share good news and bad news. It’s great to share progress. But it’s equally important to share challenges, which helps employees understand business decisions and can foster the “we’re in this together” mentality needed to pull through tough times. Offering a balanced view is important for building trust.
  • Be clear about what you will and will not – or cannot – share. Personnel information, for example cannot be shared. Transparency does not mean that employees are entitled to any and all information.
  • Be consistent in the information you share beyond your designated leadership team. Employees will compare notes and view inconsistencies in message or detail as a sign that leaders are trying to hide something.
  • Don’t speculate about what hasn’t been decided. It’s an unnecessary distraction for employees and can be a source of frustration if the decision changes.
  • Provide employees with opportunities to ask questions and offer suggestions. Increased transparency means increased questions and opinions. At the same time, be clear about those areas that are not up for company discussion. In those situations, transparency shows up in communicating the outcome or decision clearly and openly.

When you bring employees into the conversation, they can better understand their role in helping your organization succeed. When balanced well, fostering a culture of transparency helps to build trust, loyalty and a more creative, engaged workforce.