Limits to Transparency – Don’t Forget to Close the Bathroom Door

Transparency enables and strengthens connection and trust. But everything doesn’t need to be known or shown.


Everyone needs confidantes, but that's no reason to leave the bathroom door open.

Close the door on oversharing:

If you’re the boss…

#1. Don’t show your scar.

I remember visiting a work colleague in the hospital who asked if I wanted to see his scar. I’d rather poke my eyes out.

#2. Don’t tell people about an argument at home.

People feel pressured to take your side. Worse yet, others won’t know when you make up. They continue carrying concerns.

Selective sharing:

Everyone needs confidantes, but that’s no reason to leave the bathroom door open.

It’s not ‘authentic’ to share personal secrets with colleagues. It’s stupid and needy.

7 closed doors for leaders:

  1. Personal conversations with teammates.
  2. Discussing your intention to leave the company.
  3. Long-term career goals. It’s one thing to say you’re working to earn a promotion. It’s a mistake to frequently talk about career aspirations.
  4. Off colored comments and humor.
  5. Acts of kindness and generosity. It’s one thing for your team or organization to promote acts of community service, but don’t tell everyone you gave a homeless person 10 bucks.
  6. Other people’s failures. Public failure may be discussed publicly. What are we learning? Other than that, keep quiet. (There will be opportunities to advantage yourself at the expense of others. Don’t!)
  7. Off handed advice. A leader’s casual suggestion becomes a command to the team.

Practice authentic transparency:

  1. I’m learning…. Let people know that you’re not a know-it-all.
  2. I was wrong. This is what I’m doing about it…. Take responsibility.
  3. I’m not sure. I’ll get back to you.
  4. I’m reading…. Let people know that you’re developing yourself.
  5. I used to think differently about this. Now I think ….
  6. We’re working on this, but I can’t talk about it right now.
  7. When there’s greater clarity, I’ll let you know.

What should leaders NOT share with the team?

What are healthy expressions of transparency for leaders?

Why do people overshare? The psychology behind revealing personal details (

Case Study: Do Business and Politics Mix? (

The Transparency Trap (