Being clear about transparency


Apparently everyone wants it.  We want to know everything about everything.  We want to understand that reasons for all decisions, we want to know all the ingredients in our food, we want the ability to scrutinize the minutiae of every conversations that has ever been had.

Transparency is about being open, honest, and accountable.

On a macro scale, businesses are being held to higher standards and, as such, need to be prepared to open the books to rationalize and defend their practices.

On a micro scale, I believe that there is less clarity about transparency.  How much is too much? How honest is too honest?  When brought down to the level of a one-on-one conversation, transparency gets a bit murky.

If I can take a step out of the workplace for a moment and consider some of my personal relationships, I can attest  that being more transparent and honest has not always worked in my favour.

I spent most of my childhood and a good deal of my adult life wearing a mask around certain members of my family – keeping the peace, being tolerant, not rocking the boat.  And then after a number of life-altering and mind-numbing situations, I was forced to rethink this coping mechanism. And so I took off the mask.

The result has left me with more energy, more calmness, and a better sense of self.  So far, honesty and openness seemed to be positive.  However, this “new” me has created friction and confusion with some who would prefer that I go back to being a nicer person. Not so many points being scored here.

The reality is that I am not always a nice person, I can be moody, cranky, opinionated, stubborn, and sarcastic (for the record, I list this one in both pro and con categories).  If I am going to have an open and honest conversation with someone, there is a chance that one of the above is going to make an appearance.

I will be the first to say that being honest does not give you license to be an asshole, but nor should it condemn you to being a mean and hurtful person.  There is a balance to be had and that is where I was going with the notion of transparency.

Being completely open and honest is a good objective; however, this needs to be tempered with the risks that might be triggered by doing so.  So, am I proposing selective transparency?  Well….no…well, maybe…kind of…it depends.

Can you be transparent without revealing all? Can you be open and honest without saying every single thing that comes to mind?

In terms of businesses, is it absolutely necessary to lay all the cards on the table when there is no added value, but possible risks, in doing so?  I am not proposing hiding details – I am talking about measured and tempered communication.  Kind of like the old film noir that didn’t have to show every graphic detail to explain what was going on.   Enough was said and shown to get the message across.

Now I recognize that every day communication and practices aren’t always that black and white (hehe), but I think that if you avoid the trend of hyping up every message with a light show and heavy bass beat, you might find somewhere in the middle that meets most people’s needs.

Of course, when it comes to transparency, it’s clear that you will never please everyone.







7 thoughts on “Being clear about transparency

  1. I don’t know how or why I stumbled upon this blog and this posting, but nonetheless, here I am for some synchronistic reason. Ok, so whenever anyone starts to talk about being open and honest, I start to have a conversation with myself about what it really means to be that way. In the past several years, I’ve began to embrace a new level of what some refer to as brutal honesty – stripping away everything that doesn’t resemble what really is, removing the crusty outer layer of total BS and social/political correctness, and letting bare my soul, my true feelings, my intuitions about something. This though isn’t for everyone – perhaps most, as I’ve learned. Most, I think, either have no real idea about what it means to be brutally honest, or have no understanding on how to cope with it because it reveals too harsh a look at what is under discussion…or observation. Even further, when you take this idea into the world of business (or HR as you seem to be in), it seems, like everything else, to get watered down to some degree and it loses its true meaning. In my opinion, you either do it or you don’t. I gather you have gone through some personal transformations that brought about a realization that without some semblance of real honesty and rawness, you might go crazy dealing with the people that surround you, including family and those at work, who by their very (work) nature like to gloss over and sanitize things for easier digestion. Not sure if you follow me there, but ok…So my point, whatever it may be, is that it’s good that you found your inner self, your real side, your swabhava-in a sense, and that you can now without so much hesitation feel free to let it all out without the least care as to what others think or say. This is exceptionally special and unique considering you are working in the HR field, one of those lines of work where one needs to be an expert in BS’ing. The downside you note, the moodiness, the opinionated-ness…this is what we all should seek. It is symptomatic in your case of someone who embraces the realness, the imperfectness, the raw natural beauty of life itself. It is the fakeness and the pretend predictability and consistency that we should be weary of, for that is the illusion that needs to be shattered.

    • I am extremely grateful that you stumbled across my blog and more importantly, took the time to write such a thoughtful comment. I think it`s a topic and area that most people would agree that it`s better to be open and honest, but that the majority of these same people would find difficult actually putting this into practice.

      I believe that there needs to a balance – you need to be true to yourself and all its realities, your thoughts, your feelings, your opinions, but at the same time you need to consider the value and benefit of expressing it all. If I look at social media, Twitter for example, you have hoards of people who are feel that they can be “completely honest“ by saying exactly what they think regardless of the impact and value that these words may have; however, I can practically guarantee that most of these brutally honest people would not actually say these same things directly to a person. So are they really being open and honest or are they using the screen as a mask for an alter-ego?

      In business and particularly HR, being open and honest is often listed as a requirement, but I can attest that it is not always wanted. This leads us down the path of being diplomatic and watering down messages (guilty as charged). That being said, it is something that I continue to strive for.

      I really value your thoughts; however, I am not sure it`s always going to be an all or nothing situation. Maybe it`s my passive-aggressive upbringing, or the nature of the industry I work in, but often translucent is more achievable than transparent.

  2. you’ll have to pardon my thought process. i tend to look at things maybe too deeply sometimes. it all depends at what point you are at in your personal evolution. not everyone is ready for total brutal honesty, so you are right, we will never see it with everyone. perhaps its just a matter of deciding that when you reach that point, you try to associate yourself to some degree with others who are also there. in a sense, an entirely individual thing, as opposed to trying to change others to your own enlightened behavior.

    I would say too, that your twitter example points to a segment of society that perhaps aches to free themselves from the trappings of political and social correctness. and, that they really want to be honest and real, because it provides a more meaningful existence in a way. noting again, that most “can’t handle the truth” as Jack Nicholson famously quoted. we have to ask ourselves, how far along in my evolution am I, and am I willing to be my honest self in spite of the fact that it may affect my personal or work relationships? in other words, do I just theorize about these things as being the ideal or am I actually being the person I know I should be.

  3. I like your line of reasoning and appreciate you view on this. To your second point – I believe there are people in this category (longing to be completely honest), who, on the flip side of your Jack Nicholson quote, “can`t handle being truthful“.

    You`ve given me even more to ponder regarding this – what a great way to end the week!

    Not sure whether you are a GoT fan, but I just saw this today and it perfectly sums up the awkwardness and conflict that open and honest answers can cause:


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