Definition of Transparent

1a(1): having the property of transmitting light without appreciable scattering so that bodies lying beyond are seen clearly.

(2): allowing the passage of a specified form of radiation (such as X-rays or ultraviolet light)

b: fine or sheer enough to be seen through

2a: free from pretense or deceit

b: easily detected or seen through

c: readily understood

d: characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices

Transparency in conflict

Conflicts often involve misunderstandings and missing information.  When one or more of the parties involved have incomplete information about the nature, origin or complexity of an issue it can lead to conflict.  In the above definition of transparent, part 2d states "characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices".  A lack of transparency in a business setting can create a cascading series of issues that will further complicate the situation.

It is human nature to tell stories.  When there is an absence of information, people fill in the blanks on their own.  Rarely are those blanks filled in with the positive, optimistic story.  More often, those blanks will be filled in with negative speculation and gossip.  All of which have a tendency to take on a life of their own!

Transparency while maintaining confidentiality

Very seldom in the business world are there situations where the whole story is provided to every person.  There are often serious reasons to not provide a full picture or all the information to each person in the organization.  Many of these reasons are legal — generally people are not told the reasons behind another employees' termination to maintain that individuals' privacy.  Some reasons are strategic — it would be unwise to provide information about new technology or financial plans to every employee.  So how do you strike that balance between keeping them in the dark and giving them all the details?

  1. Tell staff what you can and cannot share:  For example, you may be able to provide an outline of what is going to happen, but not be able to go into specific details yet.
  2. Tell them why you cannot share it now:  Business people generally understand that there are legal complexities and timing considerations in decision making.  Make sure that if you cannot share information, your staff understands why.
  3. Let them know when you will be sharing it: People generally do better with timeframes.  Understanding the timeline of how a change will be implemented helps people better prepare.  As long as they have an outline of information and a date when more information will be provided, they can process the information and resist the urge to catastrophize the situation.

A successful leader will be able to strategically provide information to staff to help them fill in the blanks about changes occurring in the business world.  This will mitigate conflicts as changes are made.


Kathleen Kauth

Kathleen Kauth is President/Owner of K.T. Beck Enterprises, LLC a Mediation and Business Consulting firm which focuses on using Mediation techniques to help individuals, families and businesses resolve conflicts. With areas of interest in Eldercare and Business Mediation, we are able to provide a wide variety of personalized services.   MORE >

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