Balancing on the Tightrope of Corporate Transparency

Corporate transparency can be difficult
Corporate transparency can be difficult

Today’s post is courtesy of my friends at
It’s a common predicament in the workplace. Employees clamor for more information, after feeling blindsided by an abrupt change in HR policies. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, the management sends an endless cache of documents to your staff to keep them in the know, and they’re at their wit’s end thanks to the barrage of information. It seems you can’t win. If you withhold internal company information, you can end up with an unhappy workforce that feels shut out. But if you share everything with your team, you run the risk of getting unsolicited feedback on sensitive details or damaging the company by letting details slip. Here are a few tips for achieving the perfect balance of corporate transparency.

Inform, Don’t Inundate

Your motto with your employees should be to inform, and not to inundate. Think about it like this. When you were in college, you wanted to know enough about civil engineering to be able to pass your final exam, but didn’t need (or want) to grasp the intricate nuances of building a complex freeway system. This is similar to how your employees feel. They want to be included on important company matters that will affect their paycheck, their team, and their role. But they don’t need to know everything said in the most recent meeting with your legal team or how their direct boss is going to leave early on Fridays for marital counseling.
Keep details that involve sensitive personal information or delicate business insights close to the vest. Do a gut check before sharing something, whether it’s with an individual or a whole department. If it’s something about a coworker, ask yourself if you’d be comfortable having the matter aired, if it was you in your coworker’s shoes? And if it’s a business matter, ask yourself if this is something that wouldn’t cause damage if it made its way into a newspaper. The one area in which employees should have full access, however, is to human resource policies. Company rules and the like should be clearly written and openly shared.

Choose your Channel Wisely

With personal communication, timing is of utmost importance. And with business communication, both timing and the medium used are key. Email should be reserved for semi-formal, frequent transmission of information, instant messaging for lighthearted conversation, and paper documents for confidential, sensitive or legal matters. Choose the channel you’re using based on the nature of the material.
Furthermore, don’t forget to give proper context whenever you’re disclosing anything significant. The right information given without context can be just as harmful as misinformation. Take finances, for instance. It can be a good idea to share certain financial factors with your employees, like the state of the industry, where your profits go, what you invest in, your financial strength and how you’re performing against budgets and forecasts. But if you reveal things like financial reports, be sure to let employees know how to interpret the figures. Whenever you inform, do so through the right channel, along with adequate education.

Give Preferential Treatment

Lastly, it may seem unfair, but not all employees have earned the right to the same level of data. Especially when it concerns finances, client concerns or other matters that could make or break the company’s success, it’s okay to be choosy about who can be privy to greater depths of disclosure. Just be sure you’re equitable among peer groups. For example, if your director of marketing is let in on an impending acquisition, don’t leave your director of communication in the cold about the news. A good way to handle the disbursement of varying degrees of information is through a service like Mozy. With a cloud-based backup solution like this, you can set specific levels of access to documents and information for different groups. It’s a tactful way to restrict entree to some people, while enabling it for others.
When it comes to corporate transparency, it can be a bit of a juggling act. In order to keep your whole team in the loop, while not overloading them with unnecessary intelligence, be strategic in your communication. Dole out information on a need-to-know basis, be deliberate about the channels (and context) you use and be selective about who can be aware of what. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be on your way to a cohesive team that is equipped with exactly what they need to succeed.

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