Morning talk show host Kelly Ripa brought management transparency to the forefront recently when she told television viewers she deserved more respect than to learn second-hand that her co-host, Michael Strahan, was leaving.
To some degree, most of us have felt that management has held back telling us something we should have known about sooner. However, how we have reacted in such scenarios varies widely. Some speak up like Ripa, insisting on transparency in the future. Others keep their heads down and stew, or they launch a quest to find another job.
Regardless of the path employees have taken, the debate about open communication permeates most workplaces. For employers, it's worth noting that skepticism about management transparency is real — and troublesome. A quarter of employees don't trust their employers, and half believe their employers are upfront with them, according to a 2014 American Psychological Association survey of 1,562 U.S. workers. That lack of trust is significant because employees are more engaged and happier at companies whose cultures support transparency, according to a 2015 Employee Retention Study of 400 U.S. employees by Seattle-based TINYpulse, an employee engagement firm.
As Ripa demonstrated, employees believe longevity and hard work earns them the truth about the state of the company or decisions that affect them directly. They want to hear firsthand if they are getting a new boss, or the company is closing the branch they work in or going in a new direction and their job description will change.
"Everyone wants to feel they matter," says Lanie Morgenstern, a Florida-based career coach and CEO of Lion's Compass, a human resources website. "In any relationship, trust is the foundation. Now you put that into the setting of work, it needs to be the same. If trust is not there, that's when people are job-hopping."
Of course, management believes transparency is more complicated. Executives often weigh what the organization has to gain or lose when timing the disclosure of actions that affect some or all employees. Many employers say that telling their workers about new strategies or planned changes is simply too risky, especially today when employees use social media and news spreads virally. As one CEO puts it: "Change will always elicit a response, and that response could kill a deal, so it's a factor in what we disclose and when."
Marta Montenegro, a nutrition specialist, first noticed how employees value sharing information when she became the founder and editor-in-chief of SOBeFit magazine in Miami, which she ran for five years: "I realized you have to be smart as a manager to know what to communicate and when. The important things needed to be communicated as soon as possible, and they needed to come from me rather than through office gossip."