To Be Transparent or Not To Be Transparent at Work

There are workplaces where transparence is a natural phenomenon and there are others where the culture is permeated by power plays and covert operations. Deciding how transparent you should be is key to your ability to successfully navigate your work environment.

Transparence and trust are inextricably linked. When transparence is possible, there are opportunities for collaboration, authentic communication and creativity. Your coworkers are willing to be vulnerable because they know and feel they are in a safe space. Some leaders use transparence as part of a trust building strategy but if trust is already very low, employees will wonder about the leader’s motive for sharing the information, they expect some type of corruption of motive.

When office politics abound, transparence is not usual. If transparence is attempted by an office politician, the motive is most likely for personal gain, not team building. In highly politicized office environments, information is withheld because it gives the holder of that information a sense of power and status. This is because when information is hidden or delayed in an effort to manipulate a situation for a preconceived outcome.

Transparency with your Boss

Transparence with your supervisor is important when you want to build a healthy working relationship with her. It is not entirely clear if transparence comes before trust or vice versa but if your boss is trustworthy you can take the risk and be vulnerable when you need to be because the space is safe. If your boss is the type of person who is manipulative and captivated by her personal agenda, being open can lead to unwanted results for you because the information can be used against you in future.

There is an emotional intelligence skill called consequential thinking that refers to your ability to identify and consider the possible consequences of your actions. Use this skill to determine if you will be open with your boss. If the consequences of being transparent lead you to decide to keep your information to yourself, you may be in self-preservation mode because your supervisor is manipulative and cannot be trusted.

Transparency with your Coworkers

Your coworkers will view you as either compliant with their group norms or not. If you are non-compliant, they may view you as different and marginalize you because they don’t understand you. Others may go as far as viewing your non-compliance as a threat that they take personally so they take every step possible to immobilize you, and worse, damage your career. They can do this by planting seeds of doubt about you, ostracizing you, or not responding to your requests for information or assistance. The list is potentially a very long one. In politicized office environments your coworkers want you to take the side they have taken and blend in with them, so you can blend in with their system of mediocrity.

When transparence with your coworkers is possible, so is trust. When both transparence and trust coexist, you have an opportunity to resolve conflict seamlessly, you can make a mistake without fear of harsh criticism and you can speak up without fear of retribution.

A very useful emotional intelligence skill you can use to build trust between you and your coworkers is recognizing your patterns. When you are able to recognize your patterns you can also understand how your actions affect your coworkers. When you understand how you affect others, you have developed the skill necessary to perceive and understand the patterns of reaction of your coworkers.

To be Transparent or Not…

In a healthy work environment, transparence is not only about sharing information, it is about sharing the right information at the right time with the right people. It is about developing targeted messages for each of your audiences so you can ensure your message is received and understood as you intended. Multi-directional communication should be your goal because not only is what you have to say important, so is the contribution of your coworkers.

So when considering if you should be transparent or not, ask yourself, “Am I in a highly political environment or one that supports trust, openness and collaboration?”  If you work in a trusting, safe environment, and the information you have to share can contribute to the greater good of the team, then go ahead and impart the information in a constructive and supportive way.

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Yvette Bethel

Yvette is an HR and change consultant, emotional intelligence practitioner, trainer, and author of the book EQ. Librium: Unleash the Power of Your Emotional Intelligence; A Proven Path to Career Success.  . She is a Fulbright Scholar with over 25 years of experience. During her tenure in the banking industry, she served in senior capacities in corporate strategy, marketing, PR, training, and human resources. Yvette Bethel can be reached at Her book E.Q. Librium: Unleash the Power of Your Emotional Intelligence; A Proven Path to Career Success is also available at and other retailers.

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