The call for transparency is recurrent. People easily ask for transparency. What they like is the idea to be informed.
Things are slightly different when transparency unveils information that isn’t easy to deal with. These are the moments in which people may withdraw from receiving or sharing the information.
Transparency can be hard.
I’ve just read an article sharing the story of a tourist coming back home after a few days of skiing. Instead of going into quarantine as the rules would have required she immediately reconnected with her daughter. It led to her transmitting COVID to a few acquaintances and brought 5.000 people into quarantine. Transparency would have meant to deal with the inconveniences of staying away and waiting until reliable information was available. The story I read is one of the rare ones where someone also made herself accountable.
Transparency can lead to a feeling of guilt or shame.
Showing all the information available means to make oneself vulnerable through that information. It’s information others will evaluate. It may lead to being criticized or excluded. And it’s information one has to live up to. When people ask for feedback or let themselves be tested, the hope generally is to have a convenient result. Luxembourg has an impressive testing strategy. I’ve already been invited four times to be tested for COVID. Luckily I’ve only had negative results so far. However, the number of positive results found through the testing led to Luxembourg being put on the list of high-risk countries. No one can say if the infection rate was higher than in any other country. As far as I know, Luxembourg was the only country creating such transparency. It took time until people made themselves aware that national testing strategies are different.
Sharing and seeking inconvenient information requires courage. It will not happen if that courage is not respected. That’s true in any situation. It’s true for the messenger. It’s true for the recipient.
Teams and leaders who call for transparency need to keep that in mind.