by | Nov 4, 2021

It’s common to equate honesty and transparency, but the distinction matters when it comes to your internal communications strategy. Honesty is about having integrity, being truthful in what you say and how you say it, while transparency refers to truthfulness and sharing all of the information. It’s not fun to hide things from employees, but sometimes telling the whole truth isn’t an option. However, misleading employees makes trust hard to come by.

Whether it’s open enrollment communications about rising healthcare premiums or a CEO message about an upcoming acquisition, focusing on honesty, not transparency, sustains the goodwill you work so hard to build. Keep these things in mind to ensure that employees know they can trust you to be honest — even when business dictates that you can’t be completely transparent.

1. Acknowledge their concerns.

While it is certainly frustrating for employees to know that information is being withheld from them, it’s reassuring at least for them to know that their questions and concerns have been heard. If there are concerns employees are raising, it’s important to acknowledge them, even if you can’t answer them right away.

Sometimes choosing honesty over transparency means telling them that you can’t share right now, but you don’t have to be callous about it. Tossing in the phrase, “we’ll let you know when we can,” or “we’ll share this information with you when we’re able to,” can show empathy while still setting the appropriate boundaries with employees.

2. Don’t over-promise to begin with.

When stepping into leadership roles, we often have exciting ideas for the kind of leaders we could be, and none of us listed “dishonest” among the qualities we hoped to embody. That leads us to list things like “transparency” or “vulnerability” as company values or as part of the employer brand. Unfortunately, those words might be writing checks that are too big to cash.

Does it make sense to be completely transparent when the right business call is to let people go? Will your leaders really be completely open when telling employees about savings-focused relocation? If not, don’t promise to always be transparent. When establishing company values, or reiterating them, make it clear that there are boundaries; you’ll strive for honesty, but you might not always be completely open.

3. Understand that it’s a long-term strategy.

Being truthful about the boundaries of your internal communications shows integrity, but it might also be a hard pill for some employees to swallow. Unfortunately, this approach can build frustration with employees when tensions are already high. Still, maintaining honesty, even without full transparency, leads to trust in the long haul.

Maintaining integrity in a business setting is inherently challenging. When it comes to internal communications, the best path is with honesty, not transparency. After all, trust works two ways. If they know they can trust you without understanding the ins and outs, they’re more likely to do their jobs with integrity — building the alignment that internal communications strive to create.

Want your communications to reflect your values? Tribe can help.

Subscribe to our internal communications blog