• Aryeh Brickner

Classified: When to share information with your employees

One of the delicate balancing acts managers must contend with is secrecy vs. transparency when it comes to their employees. Some managers never discuss discreet issues with their employees, while others are utter blabbermouths and love discussing everyone else’s business with their team.

Let’s start with the obvious. Sharing office gossip is never a good idea. You will be known as the manager who has a big mouth and people will come to understand when they are dealing with a sensitive issue, you should not be the address.

However, there can be cases where junior employees can benefit from understanding the decision-making process or seeing how you, as a manager deal with certain issues. Say for example someone from another division was interested in joining yours, only they weren’t a good fit. You would surely give that person an honest response about their transfer. But what if one of your employees comes over and says, “What happened with Janet transferring in, I thought she wanted to join our team?” If this person is simply being nosy just tell them, it didn’t work out. But if you think there is a relevant learning experience here for them, you may offer up something more concrete, such as, “I spoke extensively with her, but I didn’t think her attitude was right for our team”. You may even cite an example or two of why you thought it so. Now your employee realizes just how serious you take the group dynamics and how you will do what you can to “protect” their interests.

Here are some guidelines about disclosing potentially sensitive issues to employees.

1. Can it help them in their position? Perhaps you manage a team of other managers and you want to share something which you are privy too which took place on a different team. Will it help them manage better? Will it be beneficial for their self-growth? Is there a learning experience in it for them? If the answer is yes, you may want to share.

2. Can you learn from them? We all have employees whose judgement we trust more than others. Some of the best advice I ever got came from my team. Gossiping for the sake of gossip is bad but talking about a work issue for the sake of receiving input is important. Your team members will also feel more involved if they see you lean on them for advice. This doesn’t mean discussing someone else’s personal issues but it could relate to general company policy discussions.

3. Will they find out anyway? If there are rumors floating around the office about a certain topic, it’s far better to manage the communication directly than let someone hear about something second hand.

It isn’t always easy to know which employees you can trust and which ones you can’t. But don’t take it for granted that your employees assume you won’t be candid with them. Some employees take it personally when their manager seemingly withholds information from them and others are frustrated because they would like to have more learning experiences regarding sensitive issues. At the end of the day you need to use your best judgement and make sure your employees understand part of their journey into management is developing the ability to be discreet as well.

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