What’s the Big Secret?


In most organizations, the norm is to withhold information (especially financial information) from the team members, or to at least limit what information is shared with team members. I’ve heard many reasons for this withholding, but what message do we send when we choose not to let team members better understand the business? With employee engagement levels at horrific lows (31.5% according to a 2014 Gallup study), it’s time for a change, and transparency is one of those needed changes.

Let’s take a look at the “reasons” that leaders give for withholding or limiting information (financial or otherwise), as well as the reason behind the “reason.”

  • It’s none of their business – And yet we want our people to treat the business with a sense of ownership. [Real Reason – We’re afraid of what they’ll do with the information, which translates to a lack of trust.]
  • They won’t understand it – Yet we could take the opportunity to help them understand so that they could be more engaged. [Real Reason – We think our team is less intelligent or unable to learn, and we’re afraid of what they’ll do with the information.]
  • They’ll be afraid if they know the real information (protecting them) – And yet we could address this issue by educating and empowering them. [Real Reason – We don’t trust the quality of our team members and their resilience, or we don’t want to put in the extra work to empower and educate them.]
  • It will lead to drama in the workplace – But we likely already have drama that we’re not addressing, which means that we’re a part of the problem. [Real Reason – We don’t trust our people, and we have failed in our leadership to create an engaged team that has each other’s backs.]

There are many reasons behind the withholding or limiting of information, but they all come down to two core reasons – lack of trust and fear. One of the biggest fears (especially regarding financial information) is of employees knowing what the owners or leaders make – once again out of the same fear of what they’ll do with that information or how it will impact them. I wonder – if you’re afraid of your team members knowing what you make (or having some idea about it), what’s the real issue? Why are you afraid? Don’t your team members deserve to know?

I know this will be a controversial topic, but I hope you’ll take a moment to ask yourself – what’s the big secret? At a minimum, I hope you’ll get honest with yourself about why you choose to withhold information from your team members – the people that you say are the most important part of your organization. With employee engagement at critically low levels, I’d say it’s time for something different – open up, trust them and let them in. Maybe that’s the secret!


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