Project managers sometimes struggle with how open and transparent they should be with their teams.

navigating transparency

These days, it’s tempting to make transparent your default setting, but there are limits. If your work environment is filled with cutthroat office politics, you might be the transparent lamb in a den of jackals. And if you’re new to a work group, it’s important to figure out the culture before you go totally transparent.

So how do you determine how transparent you can be? Start by looking at your boss—how transparent is she? A boss sets the tone for your workgroup, and her level of transparency offers clues to what your team expects from you. Bear in mind that her transparency is conditioned on how her bosses act, and high levels of organizations, especially large ones, are often non-transparent.

Many of us have had a job where an executive solicited input from others—and then made a move that completely ignored the team’s suggestions. That leaves employees baffled, demoralized, adrift and often suspicious of the decision maker. Following this kind of behavior is not great for team satisfaction.

online project management transparency

So, if your supervisor talks freely about high-level discussions (sharing information that’s not gossip), that’s a cue that you can talk openly about similar topics with your team. But if your boss doesn’t share information, and swears you to secrecy about impending personnel moves, be careful about over-sharing with other team members.

Here are some basic guidelines on how to monitor your level of transparency at work.

Transparency with your boss: How open should you be with your boss about what’s happening on your team? Look for clues. For example, micro-managers want all the details, even the ones you’d rather not share. Also, if you want your supervisor’s support for dealing with tough situations, your boss is more likely to be helpful in a pinch if you’re transparent about good news and bad news. Bosses prefer solutions, not problems, so when you ask for help, bring a solution (even a partial one) to get the conversation started on the right note.

Transparency with your team: Transparency helps project teams because it puts everyone on the same page. For messages that pertain to everyone, handle them publicly (in meetings, email or conference calls). But if you have an issue to take up with an individual, do it in private. Forthright conversations are important, but don’t chew out a team member in front of the group.

transparency in the workplace

Using transparent tools: The optimal online project management software will support a more transparent workflow. Team members need visibility into each other’s activities in order to see how other tasks affect their own activity. As project lead, this type of project management software will show you where everyone on your project stands on relevant tasks. By optimizing the right software, you should be able to identify future bottlenecks and make adjustments to avoid them.

Transparency during layoffs: Layoffs are tough on transparency. The best human resources practice is to make cuts quickly, without much notice to workers. That’s probably the best practice for project manager leads who are faced with the job of cutting team members. When a layoff is widely rumored, morale suffers, so make your separations quickly but compassionately.

Transparency with your customer: Transparency with customers is the trickiest kind of all. Your customer’s biggest concern is that their project is completed on time and on budget. This is also what matters most to your customer’s team leaders. If you blow it, your boss, your team and your customer will be upset. If you can, use your project management software to share project timelines, plans, task lists, competed documents and the current status of team members and tasks on your customer’s project. On the other hand, don’t routinely share drafts of documents, your team’s commentary on the client or any general grousing.

A goal of transparency is to encourage positive collaboration over a project’s life cycle and through to delivery—and to have the best possible experience getting there.

How transparent do you think your project team should be? Tell us in Comments.

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Transparency at Work: How Open Should You Be? was last modified: June 1st, 2017 by Tim Clark