The Importance of Transparency

The Importance of Transparency

In a previous blog entitled, The View from the Top Can Be Lonely. It Does Not Have to Be, we talked about the importance of trust across colleagues and especially important – trust within the colleague/leader relationship.  Today, I want to discuss another topic, transparency.

Six team members are losing their job at ABC Corporation despite their brilliant track record.  Sound all too familiar?  We can’t fix downsizing, right sizing, organizational restructure, organizational change or any of the other fancy buzz words, it will happen. We can and should make this life event a little less traumatic for our teams.  

For a person going through this, it is a very painful time full of emotions – from being mad, to fearful of not paying the mortgage or rent, to frustrated about how difficult it is to find a job and get that interview, to doubting yourself that maybe you weren’t all that great – what’s wrong with me – I can go on and on and many of us have lived it, including myself.

I’ve lived through these too many times to count over my thirty years of working in various businesses.  I have learned many lessons being on the receiving end of furloughs or layoffs and also having been one who had to make those awful decisions. Despite which side of the table you are sitting on, how you handle this news will determine if it is a traumatic experience versus a sad but manageable experience for the colleague.

Read the two stories below and you tell me which manager is more transparent:

Cheryl is an office assistant for a technology company and getting ready to get married.  Cheryl loves her job and does a great job every day receiving great reviews and accolades from her manager and other colleagues.  Cheryl walks into the office and begins her day.  An overnight express package is delivered and she opens it.  It says … your job has been eliminated … here is your 2 weeks severance package.  In the package is a plane ticket for tomorrow to the main office (a State away) with instructions to come to the main headquarters to sign your leaving papers.  Cheryl is blind-sided, massively upset and calls her manager.  Her manager tells her yes this is not a mistake and the company had to make some changes hanging up the phone abruptly.  Cheryl is devastated. She already has her wedding planned thinking she will have a job to help pay for the costs.  How will she pay for this and enjoy the best time of her life – her wedding – when she has to look for a job on top of wedding plans.  It’s too much!  

Ann is an HR manager who just finished a large transformation project.  Joe, Ann’s leader called Ann over to have a chat.  Joe shared with Ann that there will be changes to happen within the organization where certain teams must consolidate.  He shares, within six months you are going to be laid off.  Joe shares, I want to share this now with you because there are options you can choose now relating to your severance package, taking advantage of outplacement services, that may enable you to quickly jump back into your career.  You’ve been a good team member and we really appreciate your work in our latest transformation.  Let’s talk about this again each week so we can plan time for you to transition and get the support you need.

Now, which scenario feels like the manager is more transparent?  Of course, it’s Ann’s leader Joe.  He is giving plenty of support and time to help transition his employees into their next chapter.  Leaders may not always have the luxury of time and various employment laws may dictate how much advance time can be given. 

To be transparent is to be human.

Think about how you would like to be treated, what notice can you give and what support you can provide to make the transition manageable for the employee. 

With the Covid-19 virus occurring, many businesses were not prepared, had to shut doors, had to make hard decisions very quickly.  We can’t blame bad behavior on Covid-19. We all know these good and bad practices happen every day and have for years.  I would challenge all senior leaders to take the transparent route.  If you must make a change that impacts your employees:

  • Communicate early and often. Forget the secrecy, most people know when there is something up. Not being transparent only adds to the office rumor-mill.
  • Be transparent by clearly stating what is happening and why.
  • Provide support through listening.  You most likely can’t fix what is going on, being supportive makes the difference.
  • Give them time to process.  
  • Give space for employees to search and interview for jobs, talk to internal recruiters to find something in another department, or schedule those doctor appointments for those check-ups they’ve put off.
  • Introduce them to someone in another business in your network that is hiring. If you’re not already connected on LinkedIn, connect with them — they may hear about job openings within your network they might not have imagined otherwise.
  • Write up a recommendation or offer to be a reference.
  • If you are a good resume writer, offer your help to review a resume.

Now, let’s see who will take this challenge to be more transparent, supportive of your teams in these times of change.  We’ve shared scenarios that involve loss of jobs, but this really is relatable for other lifecycle scenarios.  Just be human and most importantly think about if it were you on the other end – how would you like to be treated.  Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, I have, it’s important to understand your mistake and apply that next time, because together WeLearn.


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