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Michael DubakovFibery founder
Essays

Why is transparency in the workplace a must for any company?

April 02, 20214 min read

Transparency is one essential thing that helps keep social systems alive. It’s absolutely crucial in the workplace, too. If there’s no workplace transparency, here’s the secret: this place is completely fucked up. 🙅‍

Is the decision-making process unclear for team members? Are employees unable to understand how the salaries work or how to get a raise (no salary transparency whatsoever)? Most likely, injustice reigns in such a workplace. Does the product owner never explain to team members why certain features are given preference? Most likely, this product owner is a regular incompetent asshole. Company’s earnings and spendings are shrouded in mystery? Apparently, the bosses in this company fly business-class only and get bonuses for nobody-ever-knows what.

Without transparency in the workplace, without open communication, manipulative techniques, political games, and injustice become rampant. I believe that any organization should be based on equity. That is, the same set of rules should apply to all employees, and the employer, too. Unfortunately, without transparency, equity goes right down the drain. Accountability disappears. I mean, isn’t it just human to introduce some kind of exceptions for the people you like, at some point? Yes, it is! This will naturally lead to employees fighting for bosses’ affection, cringing, and all kinds of eyewash. And you should try and avoid it at all costs. Use transparency in the workplace for that.

What do team members feel in an obscure system? First of all, distrust. How can you trust an organization or a company that hides everything? So employees naturally start to hide their thoughts and motives, too. After all, you never know how everything works here! The company culture is one big unclear blob! I might say something wrong, and things will only get worse for me! Another key feeling in a system that lacks transparency and effective communication is helplessness. Influencing something in a company and making it better is particularly difficult when the control mechanisms are hidden somewhere at the end of the social labyrinth of personal connections. In some organizations, it’s a labyrinth made of fool mirrors, with mines on the ground. Enjoy finding the control mechanisms in it! What I’m saying is that without honest feedback and clear communication, building trust is impossible. Without trust, productivity suffers. In the long-term, it’s a losing game.

With radical transparency and all information accessible, making shitty decisions and manipulating people becomes tricky. Organizational transparency allows people to grasp the context of what’s happening. They start acting more consciously, speaking out freely. Employee satisfaction levels grow. People naturally contribute more to the team. They can now influence the system and improve it, coordinate their actions. All these idealist things stay very, very difficult, of course. Yet, in a transparent system, there is at least some chance for it to succeed!

Big decisions shouldn’t be made by just one person, whoever that is. One person can’t be transparent or assess a situation from different perspectives. For major decisions, committees are a must. Even though committees slow down the process, they allow for dialogue and hearing out each other’s opinions. More informed opinions = more opportunities for a considered decision. Next to this all, it’s much easier to manipulate one worker than a whole group of people. Collective decision-making is insurance of sorts against deciding to implement something shallow you’re just excited about (which is my personal favorite sin).

Transparency in the workplace is simply a must. A family, a country—basically, any social system profits from transparency. Citizens should be able to look into the budget, find out the incomes of all officials, and have the right to any statistics. All activities of the state apparatus must be transparent. Such transparency drastically reduces corruption and increases trust towards the authorities.

At Fibery, the only information hidden is the salary information, only because the team has voted not to disclose it. I’m still not quite convinced this was the right decision.