The Key to Transparency: Trust

- Worker Happiness

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by Julia Gain

Transparency is a fundamental aspect to successful workplaces. Creating a transparent environment means fostering openness between employees and managers: All information, processes and data relevant to work should be disclosed through flowing communication. There are many different ways to make your workplace transparent, such as dedicating moments to communication and feedback, giving feedback on results and goals, sharing data, being open about processes and deadlines.

Transparency has an impact on employee happiness, motivation and productivity. The core of transparency is honesty and honesty can’t work without trust. Trust works in multiple ways:

  • Employees trusting each other
  • Employees trusting you
  • You trusting employees

Why you need your team to trust you?

In an honest environment, people feel free to share their feelings, positive or negative. They feel they can talk about their difficulties, the obstacles they face and their failures because they trust they will be heard and supported without fearing negative backlash. Sharing success is great, but sharing failures and obstacles is even better when it comes to innovation and productivity.

As Tom Kelley, Founder of Ideo, puts it:

“Fail often so you can succeed sooner.”

Showing your employees they can trust you encourages them to be honest and it is the first step towards improvement. Honesty plays an important part in creating an innovation-driven environment by encouraging people to take risks and learn from their mistakes.

Why you need to trust your team?

In a transparent environment, employees trust you. You also have to trust them. Without trust, transparency is control. While a transparent environment is based on openness, control is synonymous of surveillance. Transparency is based on communication and that’s how information flows: People are honest with each other. Transparency becomes control when you don’t wait for people to come forward. Sometimes we slip into surveillance without even realizing it. Control mechanisms are diverse and affect processes, communication methods and even office layouts.

  • Are you observing what your employees are doing without any specific procedure?
  • Are you tracking work-time?
  • Are you asking for extensive monitoring of day-to-day activities?

Open workplaces are a good example of the fine limit between transparency and total lack of privacy. Open workplaces can be a great way to share information in little time and work together as a team. But, they are also a tangible example of what happens when we feel observed. Open workplaces can cause stress, the impression of being tracked and even the feeling we have something to hide. Being constantly observed makes people feel vulnerable. This is the opposite of what you want to achieve with transparency. In addition to stress, it will discourage any creative and disruptive behavior, which is exactly what you need to foster innovation and productivity. In the long run, teams will be discouraged and motivation will falter.

In an actual transparent environment, based on honesty, you trust your team to do their best, self-organize and come forward with mistakes. If you don’t, ask yourself why and work on it. Sometimes, trust issues in the workplace can come from lack of communication on goals and steps to get there. Create moments to talk about intermediate objectives, processes and long-term goals. Make sure everyone is on the same page and driven by the same objectives to create a solid team spirit. This can help you trust your team and create an honest and transparent atmosphere.

Photo credit Joseph Chan via Unsplash

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