Transparency vs. Translucency

Why You Shouldn’t Tell Your Team Everything


Transparency: Allowing light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen.

Translucency: Allowing light, but not detailed shapes, to pass through; semitransparent.


This blog post originally appeared on Press Start Leadership


People often speak about the importance of transparency in business. While it’s important to be open and honest about what’s happening in your company, I would like to make a case for translucency: sharing most things, but not everything. Making informed decisions is important for everyone in an organization, but there are pitfalls to knowing too much. We often fail to share information that’s crucial to making informed decisions. Generally, this happens because what is assumed to be known or unknown is incorrect. If a company were completely transparent, one would think there wouldn’t be any issues around information transfer, but in fact there are two:

1. Information Overload. When everyone is told everything, people can’t keep up with all the information. They also have trouble sifting through the information and miss out on pieces that are key to making good decisions.

2. Information is in Flux. In most companies, ideas and projects are constantly moving and changing. If certain deciding factors aren’t locked down and get shared too early, they could incorrectly influence important decisions.

As a leader, it’s important to be open and honest, providing teams with all the info they need while not overloading them with too much information or giving them information that’s in flux. This is what translucency looks like. Practice giving your teams enough information to make decisions without causing paralysis. Allow your employees to ask questions, and update them as relevant items solidify. Don’t burden them with more information than they need to complete the work and make the decisions directly ahead of them.

How do you know what to share and what not to? The short answer is experience, but if you’re new to leadership, you can execute translucency with minimal failure by creating trust. Show your team you have their best interest at heart by, you know, having their best interest at heart. They need to know they can ask for clarity, so encourage them to ask questions if more information is needed. They need to trust you aren’t holding back important information. Is the information vital? Tell them. If you can’t tell them, let them know why.

Ultimately, it’s about balance. Give your employees the information they need to succeed and feel like a vital part of the company. Leave out what doesn’t affect them or help them with their work. Everybody’s time is precious, treat it that way.

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