What happens when there is too much transparency?

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The notion that increasing transparency leads to enhanced employee engagement, trust and productivity has surged in popularity, so much so that some offices have even adopted wall-less, open layouts to reduce barriers between employees. In other cases, CEOs' "open-door policy" has become a literal element of design. But what's at stake when there is too much transparency?

According tothe Harvard Business Review, too much transparency can lead to work conditions in which employees feel their autonomy and individuality are being challenged, which can ultimately incite them to rebel.

There are four main reasons for this, according to the report.

1. Too much transparency creates a culture of blame. Transparency is meant to allow the facts rise to the surface. However, when left to stand alone, facts don't communicate to employees why something happened. Instead of learning why a mistake happened, you only know what the mistake was and whose fault it was. Focusing too much on these aspects and not confronting the underlying reason for the mistake creates a blaming culture, which over time will discourage even the best workers.

2. Too much transparency can foster distrust. While this may initially seem paradoxical, initiatives and regulations that are designed to increase transparency often come across as untrusting. For instance, an employee who has to document each step of her calculations to be sure she arrived at the right answer will not feel she is trusted under this level of micromanagement, according to the Harvard Business Review.

3. Too much transparency could encourage cheating. Complete transparency may promote the idea among employees that, because the company is theoretically "all-knowing," they're entitled to cheat the system when they know they can get away with it, according to the report.

4. Too much transparency can spur resistance. Organizations that advocate complete transparency with the aim of rewarding good behavior and punishing bad may seem to hold moral standards that are impossible to meet, according to the report. This could cause resistance, resulting in worse behavior.

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