What Does It Mean to Be Transparent in Your Work?

by Amy Steinberg Published Jan 15, 2019 Last updated Jan 15, 2019

Transparency is becoming an ever more popular buzzword in many businesses and many industries–but do you really understand what it means?

What is Transparency?

Transparency, in business, means offering a clear, honest assessment about what’s going on within one’s work. Transparency, in many ways, starts with a simple shift in communication: openness and honesty between everyone involved in the business relationship. In order to create a transparent working environment, you need:

Clear communication. Communication is one of the most important hallmarks of transparency. When you clearly communicate with each member of your team, they know exactly what’s expected of them, what the business’s goals are, and how their tasks are intended to help the business reach its goals. Communication in a transparent working environment should flow freely between lower-level employees and managers–and it should flow both directions, not just one. 

Honesty. Are you honest with the people you work with? When there’s a challenge, do you discuss it with the relevant individuals, whether that means having a sit-down with your boss, or talking to a peer who’s causing a problem? Most importantly, when things aren’t going well, do you share that information with others, rather than keeping it to yourself? Many times, supervisors and higher-ups choose to keep information to themselves in an effort to prevent people in lower-level positions from having a specific, undesired reaction they would likely have if all the information were made available. Unfortunately, this can often backfire when the information inevitably comes to light. 

Regular feedback. In order to create an effective working environment, people need feedback on their performance–and companies need feedback on theirs. Are you set up to encourage feedback on behalf of both parties, allowing everyone in the workplace to make changes as needed? If not, you aren’t offering full transparency. Keep in mind that feedback is not best issued merely once a calendar year. Rather, feedback should be a normal part of your project completion structure. 

Admission of wrong. When you do something wrong, do you admit it? It doesn’t matter if you made a small mistake that caused an issue for a customer or a bigger mistake in identifying who was wrong in a project dispute. When you’re wrong, transparency means admitting it–even if it’s difficult. 

The Benefits of Transparency

Creating a transparent working environment may be difficult, especially if your work culture is currently filled with people who will lie to one another and to you, hide what they’re doing, and provide only bare minimum details about important aspects of the daily business day. Offering transparency, however, has several key benefits. 

Transparency creates better working relationships. People are more likely to work with a company they trust or person who respects them–and offering transparency increases the odds that someone will feel this way.

Transparency allows you to solve problems faster. The more of the right people you have working on a problem, the better your odds of dealing with a problem quickly and effectively. More eyes on the problem also means more people who could potentially come up with exactly the right solution for your organization. 

Transparency builds trust. At any level of an organization, transparency builds trust between every member of the team. When you hide information, people may feel as though you don’t particularly care about them.

How to Create Transparency

Do you want to create transparency in yourself and the others around you? Try some of these key steps for improving overall transparency. 

Use the right tools. Do you have project management software that makes it easy for every member of your team to see your goals? What about document access: are key documents accessible to any team member that needs them, or do you need to dig through piles of data to find that critical document? By utilizing the right tools, you’ll find that you’re in a better position to offer transparency to every member of your team. 

Encourage communication. If communication is the key to transparency, then you need a method that will allow every employee to communicate easily. You want to allow both virtual communication through sharing software and face-to-face communication through meetings, reviews, and other opportunities. Check in with virtual workers regularly through the phone or a video conference. The more you communicate, the better you will get to know your team. 

Don’t keep secrets. Sure, there are times when you want to minimize the spread of information: when you’re working on a highly sensitive project, for example. For the most part, however, you don’t want to keep secrets in your work. If there’s a potential problem with a project, let team members know about it. The more team members know, the more they can contribute to the solution–and the more trust they will have in you and each other. 

Place trust in your team. Trust that your team is able to accomplish the goals you’ve set for them. You work with highly competent individuals who are able to accomplish their goals–so allow them to do exactly that without excessive interference. 

Building transparency in your work significantly increases trust and makes many people feel better about their overall responsibilities. By shifting your personal perspective, you’ll often discover that it’s easier to change communication throughout your team, increasing transparency.

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