The Transparent Workplace – Is It Possible?

By Jeffrey Totey

Becoming more “transparent” in the workplace has become a hot topic of late, and yet different people have different ideas on what that exactly means—and even if it is achievable. While one employee might want to know everything that is going on with the company at large, another may be perfectly happy with simply seeing increased one-on-one communication with his or her supervisor.

Transparency isn’t an Open Office Format

Sure, people are not fans of cubicle living, but the open office floor plan isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, either. Yes, it literally takes down the walls between employees, but it also takes away any sense of privacy as well. Oftentimes, supervisors and managers are plopped down beside their employees. While trying to create an atmosphere that makes the bosses more relatable, it often creates an environment where they are less respected.

Transparency isn’t an Ineffective Brain Trust

Some employers have gone to the work of creating a “brain trust” of employees to meet on a regular basis and share ideas on how to make the workplace more productive and enjoyable for all. When done correctly, employees will feel a sense that they have an important contribution to make to the company. However, if this group never sees any of its ideas implemented, they will soon feel as if their opinions really don’t count after all, and this practice is just a charade—or worse, busy work.

Transparency isn’t a Boss Who Shares Too Much

While most employees don’t favor a boss who never shares any concerns with their staff, the opposite is often true as well. Every company faces challenges, and employees shouldn’t be kept in the dark. At the same time, employers who share every insecurity they feel with their employees will only bring about more insecurity. For instance, employees should know when their job is in jeopardy due to declining sales, but they should also have confidence that their managers will stand with them during an especially trying time.

How to Strike a Balance

Just as some employers don’t want a bunch of “yes men or women” sitting at the round table, employees also don’t want to feel as if they have to agree on every point their boss makes, either. Employers should have the confidence that they can still lead effectively if they allow their employees to voice concerns or opinions about a certain project. This works best if the employees understand that the boss has the ultimate decision in the end. On the flip side, employers will come across as insecure if they are asking for their employee’s opinion on every little task.

Many employers demand that their employees are honest with them at all times and are willing to admit when they’ve made a mistake. However, some employees don’t get the same in return from their bosses. If a boss would rather sweep an issue under the rug instead of taking responsibility for his or her decisions, it only builds distrust. It never hurts a boss’s credibility to admit that she is wrong from time to time. Bosses should be respected for their positions, but at the same time, employees should be respected as fellow members of the human race. If you need employees to stay late or pick up an extra task, acknowledge that it might cause a hardship for them.

Finally, a workplace that allows its employees and managers to learn a little about each other can do wonders for interpersonal relationships. Again, too much information can be overkill and just plain uncomfortable for everyone involved, but knowing a few things about each employee’s personal life can boost morale in the office.

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