Transparency – the double edged sword

Transparency has been quite the buzzword lately.  Many organizations are trying to “open up” or “break down walls” to create an environment where more people within the organization have a better idea of what makes that company successful.  The idea (and I think it’s a good one) is to create more buy-in among employees so they feel more invested in the company, which would ultimately generate better ideas and more productivity.

The other side of that coin is when the transparency of what’s going on in the business spills over to your guests or customers.  Of course I have a recent experience to illustrate my point. :o)

barber_poleToday I went to get my hair cut at a nationally known hair cutting chain.  It wasn’t my usual establishment, but it was open early on a Sunday morning (which happens to be the first Sunday of NFL football) so the earlier the better.

I arrived to see no other customers in the store, and the one employee was coming in the from back.  She took my name and directed me to a chair.

Once seated, she began to tell me about how she had been frantically calling other stylists to come in because she was the only one in the store, and there were always supposed to be two people on site.  She went on to tell me that the other person that was supposed to be there is her best friend (who she saw yesterday) and that she had mentioned two weeks ago that she wouldn’t be in that day.

This left me thinking not of my haircut, but of how that store is run and managed.  Could they not cover a shift with two weeks notice?  Did that other stylist not even bother telling her management, and just not show up?  Are there even on-site managers to deal with these issues or are they all handled by regional manager-types who only come around every few weeks?

Of course I never got the answers to any of these questions (because they stayed in my head), but I did get an answer to this question: when is transparency a bad thing?  I think when it leaks to your guests that you have internal organizational issues, it’s time to put on the brakes.

Here’s the tough part.  I think this stylist was just looking to share her troubles and didn’t think it would cause any harm to relay this information to a complete stranger.

Think about your, and your employee’s, need to vent.  We can all say that there are things our companies can be better at, but when, where and with whom that information is shared is as important as the information itself.  Give your employees a chance to vent and share their struggles with you, so they don’t feel the need to seek outside council.

Thanks for reading!