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Transparency: A Double-Edged Sword

Our organization values transparency. We believe transparency reduces harmful office politics and the risks of bad behavior. We also believe transparency creates a culture of trust, honesty, and engagement needed for continuous school improvement.

Operating with transparency can be powerful, but like most great things it has its drawbacks. One of the biggest dangers is when employees abuse the information they receive. When transparency principles are left unmanaged, staff can harm the district by getting overly involved with issues that are not their responsibility.

Trust within an organization can quickly erode when employees take advantage of an information-friendly system. Although they would like to think they are immune to these pitfalls, all districts will undoubtedly experience this issue. Therefore, organizations that promote transparency must have high expectations for employee behavior.

In his book Principles, Ray Dalio suggests leaders may want to limit communication to those who can’t be trusted: "Provide transparency to people who handle it well and either deny it to people who don't handle it well or remove those people from the organization. It is the right and responsibility of management, and not the right of all employees, to determine when exceptions to transparency should be made."

Until recently I was unsure how to address employees who misuse our generous sharing of information. While I had some initial thoughts, guidance on managing transparent communication is limited. Discovering this insight gave me the confidence needed to address those who might abuse our transparent culture.

As transparent communication practices continue to gain momentum, school districts will want to have safeguards in place to ensure all employees are upholding organizational norms.


Looking for another great book discussing the importance of transparency in the workplace? Consider reading Hacking Leadership by Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis.

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