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The Transparency Test

The Transparency Test

Sharlyn Lauby | HR Bartender

September 13, 2010

A little while back, I talked about how transparency seems to have faded from our conversations both on and off social media. One of the reasons for this could be that we don’t really know what to look for in terms of transparency. It got me thinking. How do we know if an organization is operating in a transparent manner?

So I started a list. Here’s what I came up with:

No surprises. Not being open, particularly with regard to how money is spent, could be a dead giveaway. I’m not talking about the $4 spent on a box of staples, here. If you’re involved with an organization that has a defined process for budgeting money, selecting vendors and expense allocations, chances are you should know all about commitments to these things long before someone signs on the dotted line.

Showing respect. This can take many forms, of course. I can say my doctor has no respect for my time when he makes me wait 90 minutes to see him (hmmm … maybe he’s not transparent). But, what I’m really talking about here is making an effort to do what’s right for the customer, employee, volunteer, etc. If an organization is just doing whatever is easiest or it appears there’s a hidden agenda behind their decisions, it’s possible they aren’t being fully transparent.

Being authentic. We all know that marketers love to sell the sizzle – build the hype. But, is all of it based on truth? After Apple released the iPhone 4G, it was reported the phone had some antenna problems. Apple’s initial claim was that it was a software issue. After a media frenzy, it was discovered that indeed it was the antenna. If you’re involved with an organization that claims to have your best interest at heart, do all of their decisions and actions support that claim?

Open communication. I’ve known organizations where their leadership team could only talk as a group – not individually. Seriously. And there are companies that have to justify their actions (spin doctoring) and almost always talk through a hired third party. If each leader in an organization can’t openly address questions or issues from their customers or employees, it’s possible they’re being less than transparent.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, of course. But it highlights some things we can all look for. Remember, we all have the power to embrace and support organizations that operate openly and show us the respect we deserve. And we also have the power to walk away from those that don’t.

How do you define transparent behavior?

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