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Why and how to lead with transparency

Arielle Gordis 9 min read
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Workplace trends

Unlike its global rivals, the U.S. is divided on foreign workers

Pandemic-driven labor shortages, baby boomers retiring, and declining populations have left many developed countries with long lists of open job positions. The result? Migration to Germany, Japan, and other affluent countries has reached record highs, as governments actively try to attract foreign nationals for both skilled and unskilled jobs. The U.S., however, remains an outlier – despite a recent influx of Ukrainian refugees pursuant to Biden’s Uniting for Ukraine program and the country’s tight labor market, the U.S. still isn’t openly welcoming more legal workers. In fact, it hasn’t made any significant immigration reforms in 33 years, and the last serious attempt in Congress dates back at least a decade. Few issues are so politically divisive in Washington, which is why many experts doubt any chance of a policy overhaul in the near future.

Office returns have stalled, and cities are paying the price

In the face of ongoing worker resistance, the number of companies requiring employees to work from the office full time has actually declined to 42%, from 49% just three months ago, according to Scoop. Hybrid workers now average 2.5 days a week in the office – only half the workweek – which is why it’s no surprise that office-return rates have stalled at around half of pre-pandemic levels. This shift has left cities struggling with declining real-estate values and lower property-tax revenues as well as significant losses among bars, restaurants, and other small businesses that heavily rely on office workers. In New York, for example, each employee who works from home rather than going into the office costs city businesses around $4,600 in sales annually, according to WFH Research.

The AI corner

Job seekers, time to learn ChatGPT

A new Resume Builder survey found that 91% of hiring companies are looking for workers with ChatGPT experience, reflecting a significant evolution of modern workplace skills. As generative AI tools gain greater momentum and companies across the globe openly embrace them, experts surmise that AI expertise will soon become a commonplace skill expected in most workplaces. While the interpretation of ChatGPT experience is currently varied among companies, the motivation behind the demand is shared: to enhance productivity across departments – with the majority in software engineering, followed by customer service, HR, marketing, data entry, sales, and finance – and to give companies a competitive edge.

This startup believes in an AI constitution

Just weeks after Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, testified before congress about the importance of regulating generative artificial intelligence tools, Anthropic, an AI startup that makes constitutionally governed AI tech, raised $450 million in a mammoth round led by Google and Salesforce. Founded in 2021 as a public benefit corporation by former OpenAI employees who sought to prioritize AI safety, Anthropic’s AI chatbot named Claude is designed to adhere to values expressed in a constitution inspired by documents like the UN Universal Charter of Human Rights and Apple’s Terms of Service. Per the constitution, Claude cannot conduct toxic chatbot behavior like stereotyping groups of people, spreading misinformation, or offending non-Western audiences.

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Why and how to lead with transparency

Today, knowing how to lead with transparency has become crucial for success. For workers, knowing industry trends, understanding company strategies and internal processes, and having clarity on professional growth paths prompts more strategic thinking, stronger engagement, better decision-making, and the ability to move forward with a full picture. And for managers, that transparency means leading more empowered, confident employees, having greater alignment and collaboration across your team, and increasing efficiency.

And yet, in Slack’s State of Work report, while 55% of leaders believed their organizations were very transparent, just 18% of their employees agreed. So, what does transparency at work actually look like? It’s not about sharing confidential information or delving into every little detail that you uncover. Rather, being a transparent leader largely boils down to knowing how to be open and honest with relevant information. From business strategies and results to organizational challenges and professional opportunities, leading with transparency is about building a culture in which your employees have visibility into what’s actually going on.

So, how can you be a transparent leader?

Model the right behavior

As a manager, you set the tone for your team. If you are open with your employees and consistently follow up on their questions and concerns, they are much more likely to be honest with you. So as often as possible, loop in your team members – tell them about challenges the company is facing, organizational changes that are taking place, new strategies you’re considering, and anything else that could be relevant to their work experience. Even when you don’t have all the answers, be intentional about sharing what you do know in order to send the message that you are committed to being transparent with them.

Additionally, make it clear that your organization encourages you to share information – statements like, “I shouldn’t be telling you this” or “don’t share this with anyone, but…” insinuate secrecy and distrust, so make an active effort to highlight that the information you are relaying is coming directly from leadership.

Make time for alignment

Whether it’s once a month or every other week, set aside time to bring your team members together and fill everyone in on what’s going on at an organizational and team level. Share relevant updates, present strategy changes, discuss team goals and priorities relating to company initiatives, and leave time for questions. By ensuring everyone is getting the same information at once, you can avoid any risk of miscommunication or confusion.

Share challenges and shortcomings

While it’s easy to acknowledge successes and wins with your team, it’s much harder to admit when things go wrong. But transparency goes hand-in-hand with humility and vulnerability, and it’s at moments like these that it’s most important to be honest and truthful. Openly acknowledging mistakes and disappointments actually instills confidence among your team members that you’re not withholding information from them or trying to make things appear different than they really are. By setting a standard in which challenges and missteps are honestly talked about, you can also help reduce the likelihood of employees keeping their own mistakes a secret and potentially causing real damage.

Acknowledge feelings

As a manager, you need to tow a difficult line between validating your employees’ feelings while still conveying your trust in leadership. Sometimes, your team members may find a new company policy or business priority wrong or unnecessary. And while, in all honesty, you may also be feeling these frustrations, as a leader, it’s your responsibility to get your team onboard. That’s why the best thing to do is validate feelings while still sending a clear message that you have trust and confidence in the company’s decision-makers.

For example, if leadership is cracking down on return-to-office efforts, and you too feel it’s going to affect your preferences, make sure to take the time to explain the logic and highlight the benefits of this effort, both for the company and for your team. And at the same time, openly recognize that this will require everyone, including you, to make adjustments and that it’s going to take time. When you come at this situation human-to-human, you can really help your employees feel like you’re in this together, even if you ultimately support leadership’s perspective.

Set expectations

Do your best to set clear benchmarks for your team about what it takes to get promoted to a more senior position. Outline key milestones to reach, set quantitative KPIs, and establish important qualitative contributions that are expected in order to take that next step. Especially given that word travels fast and employees will likely share snippets from your conversations with one another, it’s essential to align expectations and create a clear standard for growth so that there’s a cross-team sense that processes are straightforward and logical.

Additionally, when relevant, it can be helpful to openly address macroeconomic factors that may impact promotion opportunities. This way, rather than feeling overlooked and resentful, your team members will have big-picture context and can feel assured that delays in growth are not a reflection of how much you value them. Saying, “Given the economic challenges, the organization is being stricter about promotions, but I want you to know that I am advocating for you and really recognize all the amazing work you do,” is a great way to show your team members that you, as their leader, respect them, appreciate them, and are invested in their success.

Provide thoughtful feedback

Don’t wait for a formal evaluation to provide guidance or discuss where your team members may have room to grow – do so throughout the year, sharing notes and being transparent about what to keep doing as well as areas to improve. Being clear with your employees about where they stand and what to work on ensures nothing comes as a shock later on, and it shows that you’re actively trying to give them the tools to help them succeed. And remember that transparency should go both ways – encourage your team members to be open and honest with you when they identify areas for improvement as well.

Water cooler chatter

Argentina just introduced a 2,000 peso banknote – and it’s worth about $4. The country’s largest-denomination banknote comes as inflation runs at more than 100% a year, forcing citizens to carry ever-growing stacks of cash with them in order to pay for daily purchases. While the new addition is an improvement over the 1,000 peso note, it still disappointed private economists and citizens who have been pushing for banknotes of up to 10,000 pesos.


“This higher denomination bill will improve the operation of ATMs and at the same time optimize the movement of cash.”
- Central Bank, Argentina

WhatsApp is letting users edit their messages. The feature is rolling out globally in the coming weeks, and senders will soon be able to modify their messages within 15 minutes of hitting send – the message will carry the label “edited” without showing the edit history.

“For the moments when you make a mistake or simply change your mind, you can now edit your sent messages on WhatsApp.”
Meta Inc., Blog post

Question of the week

This week’s question: When did the 5-day work week begin?

Just for laughs

Why and how to lead with transparency
Arielle is a writer and storyteller currently serving as a content marketing manager at When she’s not busy writing, you can find her walking outside for hours on end or planning her next travel adventure.

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