Pretty much anyone who has ever worked in an organization of any size has had to deal with the frustration of secrecy. Why do we keep so many secrets at work, and what can we do about it?
The physicist Edward Teller, who worked on the Manhattan Project and the hydrogen bomb, had this to say on the topic of keeping information confidential:
Secrecy, once accepted, becomes an addiction.
Even if your organization is not working on a doomsday machine capable of killing millions of people (and we really do hope that you aren’t), chances are that you’ve probably experienced the “addiction” of secrecy. How many times have people refused to communicate and thus created more problems in in workplace productivity?
To understand why people have secrets at work, here’s another quote. This one comes from music legend Ric Ocasek, who co-founded The Cars:
Secrecy is the enemy of efficiency, but don’t let anyone know it.
Although managers, coworkers, executives, and owners may not be consciously keeping details under their hats to slow down the company, doing so does allow them to control progress. If your employees don’t know your strategy, they can’t move forward except on assigned tasks. If they don’t know about major deals in the pipeline, they may feel they have to keep putting in unpaid overtime on existing client relationships. Secrets do work—if your goal is to ensure that no one can get anything done that you did not approve. If there are unstated objectives, you can always claim that any unauthorized work is actually in violation of the plan!
If there are any secrets being kept in your workplace, you need to reflect on why this information isn’t being shared. Are you worried it’s going to be an unpopular decision? Well if it’s going to benefit the company and you can articulate that, then it shouldn’t be. And if you can’t articulate how it’s a positive thing, then is it really something worth implementing? Are you worried people’s feelings are going to get hurt? Not every decision can be beloved by everyone, but again, if you articulate the reasoning, then good employees will understand. Do you simply like the power of knowing more than others? Well then that’s a whole other problem that has to be addressed.
If we want our organizations to be truly collaborative and incredibly productive, we need to embrace freedom to really increase employee satisfaction. Former President John F. Kennedy said it best:
The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.
Ideally, our workplaces should be free of secrets. We may need to keep some information confidential (such as medical records and conversations with HR) but efficient cultures are those that put all data on the table. If everyone knows what’s going on, everyone can decide and act in a way that is most beneficial for the company. After all, the only thing more input from quality people should do is better your organization. And if you don’t feel like you’ll get quality input, then maybe it’s time to bring some better, positive people into the fold. Honest feedback and open lines of communication are of the utmost importance in any size business.
Don’t keep secrets at work. Instead, share ideas so that all can benefit.
Stuck on how to implement these principles in your organization? Contact the business development consultants at AccelaWork today! We’d love to help you get to a secret-free workplace.