Communication with Transparency and Integrity



How to Create a Culture of Transparency

Transparent communication is a skill, a mindset, a point of view. Following are several situations in which open, honest communication is vital to a healthy workplace.

About Change: Open communication regarding possible changes on the horizon is vital to building trust. Don’t wait until you have all the details. At the same time, do as much as you can to get the latest information. Ask your manager for updates frequently.

When Asked for Feedback: When someone wants feedback, tell them what you think. People would rather have the truth than a made up answer that doesn’t tell them what they really want to know.

When You Don’t Know the Answer: Easy, tell them you don’t know. If you know someone who may have the answer, tell them you will find the answer and get back to them—or refer the person to a resource or individual. Your staff doesn’t expect you to have all the answers.

When someone asks you a question, the answer to which may be confidential: Even if you are not sure if the information is confidential, tell him/her that this may be confidential. As a manager, be very careful about protecting sensitive information, especially as it relates to individuals. If you are not sure, ask your HR representative.

When someone asks you a personal question: For example, for advice about what they should do in a certain situation or what you would do in a certain situation. The situation could be in their personal life or about a professional relationship that isn’t going well. First, if it’s about something going on in their personal life, refer them to campus counseling services. As far as professional relationships, ask what seems to be the problem. Talk about it. Listen empathetically. Together, think of ways the problem may be addressed—what the employee might do to build the relationship. If it’s more complicated or personal, refer the employee to campus counseling services.

When there is conflict among staff members: Don’t take sides. Listen openly to both parties. Find a private space where you can hold a meeting. Avoid escalation of feelings by remaining calm and neutral and by setting ground rules. For example, no ‘talking over’ one another. You want this to be a professional, productive session. The goal is to leave with a mutually agreed upon plan to resolve the conflict.

Give the speaker something (a paperweight, something from your desk) to hold when it is his/her time to speak. During this time, others may only listen. After a speaker is finished, paraphrase what you think you heard and ask if your perception is correct. This is where transparency will be very important. Pass the object to the other person. Repeat this process. Ask: One at a time, what can you do to resolve this conflict? Write down purposed changes in behavior. If you cannot reach a resolution or emotions run too high for a productive discussion, make an appointment a CARE Services for professional intervention.


Creating a Culture of Transparency on your Team

Modeling transparency as a leader is one important step to creating a team that can communicate with honesty and transparency. Here are some other tips and best practices:


Can Your Employees Really Speak Freely? (HBR) 

  • Make feedback a regular, casual exchange, rather than a “special event.”

  • When you ask your employees for information, be transparent about what you’re looking for, how you’ll collect it, and what actions you’ll take with what they share.

  • Don’t wait for your staff to come to you; ask them their opinions directly.

  • Be aware of how your behavior as a leader and the physical environment may incentivize or discourage openness and transparency.

  • Avoid mixed messages: monitor your responses to your employees’ feedback to ensure that they demonstrate that you value their perspective

  • Make sure your employees know when you are advocating for their perspective and needs in other venues. (And do it without throwing others under the bus.)

  • Tell employees what you did with their feedback.


Create a Culture where Difficult Conversations aren’t so Hard (HBR)

  • Show appreciation for good work. Give positive feedback as well as critical (at least a 3:1 ratio).

  • Lead by example by showing that you are open to what others are saying.

  • Be proactively inclusive by gathering feedback and input from others early and continuously in the process.