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.
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.
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:
- Personal conversations with teammates.
- Discussing your intention to leave the company.
- 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.
- Off colored comments and humor.
- 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.
- 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!)
- Off handed advice. A leader’s casual suggestion becomes a command to the team.
Practice authentic transparency:
- I’m learning…. Let people know that you’re not a know-it-all.
- I was wrong. This is what I’m doing about it…. Take responsibility.
- I’m not sure. I’ll get back to you.
- I’m reading…. Let people know that you’re developing yourself.
- I used to think differently about this. Now I think ….
- We’re working on this, but I can’t talk about it right now.
- 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 (mic.com)
Case Study: Do Business and Politics Mix? (hbr.org)
The Transparency Trap (hbr.org)
Everyone needs confidantes, but that’s no reason to leave the bathroom door open. In today’s cancel culture I am seeing the benefits of going somewhat dark on most anything to share beyond family is fine, want to see my Grandson’s photo etc. Anything beyond that might just escalate to areas of severe discomfort and disagreement and adverse effects. I am sad we have gotten to this point in work and society.
Thanks Roger. it seems that we talk about freedom and tolerance but, too often, practice oppression and intolerance. Sadly, we tend to worry more about speaking the things others approve of and not about our truth.
Having said that, I’m still a fan of closing the bathroom door. 🙂
Great post Dan. I’m a very authentic person and I have learned the hard way about oversharing. I think if I’m honest I have used authentic as an excuse to not have restraint with my tongue. Thanks for your breakdown at the end I think it is spot on.
Wow! I’m so thankful for your transparency. It’s encouraging and challenging. When I see transparency in others it causes me to examine myself. Very powerful.
Transparency is essential regarding the disclosure of one’s wounds / scars. TMI is ineffective. However, owning that my growth has occurred through the episodes of failure, pain, and wounding is invaluable role-modeling for building trust with those you lead and your team.
Thanks David. I find your insight so appropriate. Sharing our learnings from painful experiences expands our influence. You help illustrate the difference between ‘woe is me’ sharing and sharing that makes a difference for others.
Thanks for the alternate phrases; during the pandemic, I have often had to say: my crystal ball is still cloudy on that! Not always what folks want to hear, but certainly true about what the future holds!
Thanks Amy. So glad to be useful. It takes courage to ‘not know’. But it also takes courage to ‘not know’ with a foreword-facing posture.
I have learned the hard way that even giving benign answers to questions on anything outside of work will be used against you at some point in the future.
My wife broke her arm and needed surgery. I needed time off from work. Yep. It was used against me.
I am now very guarded in anything I say, even to long time co-workers.
It’s sad when transparency is punished. I can think of many organizations where higher levels of transparency are expected and respected. But it’s disappointing when healthy transparency is used against you.
Supportive environments require and produce higher levels of transparency.
hello dan all of it were too good but in last these transparency tip just blown me straight away thanks for reminding they were always here but couldnt let go out of pride but after reading your blog I will defiantly talk about it. and count me in for your upcoming blog i cant miss any of them now thanks for this as well.
Great advice on Transparency and Boundaries for leaders, even unofficial ones like me.
If there is silence on a subject that I know is top of mind, what might people be inventing to fill the silence? What might I speak into that void, privately or publicly? Will that help *them*? (They didn’t sign up to help me deal with my own stuff).