Transparent Organization? (What are you hiding…)

Meriam-Webster defines transparent as “free from pretense or deceit.” Pretense is defined as “an inadequate or insincere attempt to attain a certain condition or quality.” And deceit is defined as “the act of causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid.” So essentially, being transparent means to be open and honest.

But what does being transparent do in an organizational setting? And how do we create a more transparent environment?

Transparency in an organization is a way to communicate trust and that the organization is genuine. Nobody wants to work in an atmosphere that is full of mistrust and politics. We want to know, not just believe, but know that the winner of the employee of the month was picked because they performed at a higher level than the rest of the employees eligible for the award. People do not value awards if they are not genuine or if they are simply awarded because it was their “turn.” And the worst thing you can do is select the employee you are trying to get promoted to be the winner when their performance wasn’t the best. These actions create mistrust and show that the organization is not genuine.

If you have ever interviewed for a job, you know how the lack of transparency feels. It creates fear and frustration. You don’t want to open the job hiring process and every aspect of it to everyone. Interviews should be confidential; the discussion among the hiring professionals should also remain private.   But the process doesn’t need to be a mystery.

Shipping companies have figured out how to be transparent in their activities to let people know where their packages are and how close they are to being delivered. I love watching the packages I’ve ordered get closer and closer until it is finally “out for delivery.” The same things can be done in organizations. When paperwork is routed for signatures how does the person who submitted it know where it is in the process? Can there be a notification system?

The real purpose of this article is to increase the amount of transparency in the organization. Two ways to do it are:

Be consistent. There must be a set of behaviors that are expected of the employees. Then the managers must reinforce those behaviors with their actions and how they reward employees. If the message of what is important and the behaviors the managers reinforce are not congruent people will start to look at why. They will have no choice but to make assumptions and it will usually be for the worse.

Never use “because I said so.” When directing the activities of the organization, explaining “why” is a huge step to motivating and inspiring your subordinates. It is also the best way to teach them how to make good decisions. If you use “because I said so” as your reason for getting things done, your people will not be able to learn how you came to a conclusion. Doing so means they won’t be able to replicate your success. It also leads to frustration and forces your employees to make assumptions.

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