Radical Transparency: Powerful Example of How to Fight a Toxic Workplace

Joost
Written by
- 2 min read

After visiting 100+ pioneering organizations around the globe we found radical transparency to be an important characteristic of the progressives. Simply, people are more involved, perform better, and have higher trust if their leaders foster a culture of transparency (instead of a traditional culture of secrecy). Today we share a truly inspiring example of how one organization put this into practice.

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Secrecy - the silent enemy

Secrecy is the default setting in traditional organizations. It is also a silent enemy. Secrecy results in information asymmetry, usually between leaders and others in the organization. This imbalance leads to negative effects like distrust, ignorance, gossip and poor performance.

Put simply, how can you have faith in leaders who limit access to the truth? How can you trust leaders who prefer to share corporate propaganda instead?

You can't.

Transparency at work

Pioneering organizations believe radical transparency is vital, at all levels of the organization and on almost all topics. The starting point is simple: all information should be made public.

We have seen this at many of the 100+ organizations on our Bucket List. We saw it again this month in this inspiring statement by the leadership group of Cards Against Humanity.

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It seems brave, honest and human.

What do you think? Do you think it is powerful? Or do you think it is a bridge too far? Please let us know in the comments below...


p.s. There are always two sides to every story - read the other side here.

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Replies (10)

Ronny

Ronny

I think transparancy is really important and it's great that CAH responded to their employees complains and are trying to change the culture. They have to take radical steps to get the trust back.

Especially in times like this, it is crucial that the leaders communicate transparent about the situation the company is in - even if they have to communicate negative things. Their is nothing worse for an employee to be in the dark or think that everything is fine, even though it is not.

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Irena

Irena

I do not know the particular company or its problem, but education and awareness of the topic in general is extremely important. It has all the psychological elements of violence. In that regard, what matters most is immediate action and restoring its balance to healthy communication practices. Indeed, what are organizations but a clear reflection of human behavior and psychology is, although it is taught in schools- still a mystery and avoidant topic my many. What helps most is leading by example with a clean style through the whole organization (bottom-up and vertically). It all begins and ends with trust. Nice job, corporate rebels! :)

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Huub van Zwieten

Huub van Zwieten

Great way of taking massive action, but what is Max' story? There's often two sides, right? I miss that in this communication. Or is he simple send off?

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Dan

Dan

Honest and clear. It's refreshing to see an organisation recognising that they got something wrong and sharing that - it actually feels more normal (like you would expect from an individual who's made a mistake) that trying to hide. We can all recognise corporate propaganda as meaningless - it's almost an insult to our intelligence.

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Francesco Frugiuele

Francesco Frugiuele

I strongly believe in radical transparency, our team shares any available information, including fees and salaries, and we are aware of how hard is to build trust and how easy is to screw it up.

The story about CAH is a great example of taking action around a sensitive subject and being brave enough to expose it openly.
I think that giving some more context about Max's side of that story and how the group of founders dealt and felt about having to ask one of them to step down from an active role in the company would've been even more powerful.

Great job, as usual, Joost and the Rebels - it sounds like a Surf Band from the sixties, just realized it, love it!

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Mark Inskip

Mark Inskip

Is this really radical transparency?

The allegations that were reported called out a toxic culture of racism and sexist, and in particular against black women and non-binary people. The claim was the problems were longstanding and the company was slow to act.

the statement skirts around the specifics of the allegations even though acknowledging some were found to be true. It talks about addressing unconscious bias at work, but if they allegations are to be believed then they point to conscious discrimination would would usually to expected to result in disciplinary action.

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Ceilidh

Ceilidh

What about examples in smaller companies? Leaders in smaller companies might dismiss 100 plus person companies as being relevant and claim they “know their team” but often while they might think know their their they don’t always know themselves - and this is their real barrier to transparency and transformation.

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Sarah

Sarah

While the action detailed in this letter is a good step forward, I am not seeing actual transparency occur in this account. Transparency will occur when people feel comfortable speaking up which is going to require a change of culture. This is a mea culpa but not a change in culture. Max is gone but Max's behavior was not just ignored but outright supported for many years by the "Active" founders. The statement "Some of these accounts are true, others are not, and few we are continuing to investigate." is a passive shame-shift to the people who complained. The problem persists.

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Jeff Anderson

Jeff Anderson

I don’t know both sides of the story, but reading Nicolas’ account makes the CAH leadership come across as ghastly.

Am I correct that this is an 18 person organization? If so something appears seriously amiss when I compare Nicolas story to the generic form letter like response attached. I would expect something much more authentic, including but not limited to an invitation for others to facilitate root cause and identification of some shared values to guide behavior.

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Sandra

Sandra

I don't think naming an individual helps at all. The message could have been delivered without alluding to an individual as clearly these things often don't just come from one individual anyway but a wider culture. Feels a bit like they were throwing this person under the bus.

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