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Just How Important Is Transparency?

Organizations and organizational leaders tout transparency but in my experience, they are reluctant to be fully transparent.

One client I had “got” how important transparency is in the hiring process.  They were looking for a nurse to work a particularly difficult shift caring for unruly patients in a wing undergoing renovation. While the renovation would eventually end, the patient population would likely continue.

They took prospective candidates on a tour and pointed out every single challenge that the candidate might face.  The bad, the ugly, and whatever good was there.  They found the perfect candidate, and they quickly eliminated those who would struggle.

The new nurse thrived in a challenging environment and soon had the unit humming, with patients and family his biggest fans.

That’s transparency at work.

Now, here’s an even better example of transparency.  The Humane Society in Aurora, IL posted a bio of Chowder, an English Bulldog up for adoption and written by his foster mom. Here is the narrative that caught my attention and prompted me to write the article:

He’s actually pretty awesome and freaking hysterical. Just sounds terrible on paper.

Name: Chowder
Gender: Male
Age: 3
Weight: 65lbs
Breed: English Bulldog x
Neutered: Yes
Vaccinated: Yes
Microchipped: Yes

Foster Location: Aurora, IL. No out-of-state applicants, please.
Cats: Unknown. But let’s go with no. No seems like a solid plan.
Home Recommendation: Single Family. Fenced yard. He’s a loud barker and needs leash work.
Kids: Yes. But how tough are your kids? He is a stumpy-legged, thick-bodied, giant-headed, wrecking ball. No human, big nor small gets treated differently by Chowder.

A fur-ever family will read this and know that Chowder will be perfect for them, and Chowder will have a loving home into which he fits beautifully.

Others will read it, chuckle, and say, “Okay, not the right dog for us.”

It’s all about “fit”

So why are we tempted to avoid telling the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to job applicants?

Organizations hire people every day. Individuals bank their livelihood and career on the job.  Is there transparency in that process?  In my experience, not so much.

Too often, I have seen hiring managers who told the good, but conveniently left out the bad and the ugly and then wondered why the employee washed out in the first few months.

Organizations spend beaucoup bucks on human resources processes to predict “fit.”  But should it be singularly the privilege of the organization to determine “fit?”

Shouldn’t the candidate also have an opportunity to see if the job and the organization provide an environment as a match to their own experience and temperament?

Will they spend their day at a desk with a clock counting the minutes on break?

Will they have to use outdated equipment to do their job?

Will their manager be flexible when they have a childcare issue?

In a salaried position, are they expected to put in be available to their phone 24/7/365?

Tell it like it is, or change it

Some of those “transparencies” will turn off just about every candidate, and they should.  If 2020 taught us anything, it taught us that work/life balance is even more critical than we realized.

If you itemize the bad and the ugly and realize that it isn’t a matter of fit, but a matter of a poorly constructed job or a poor organizational culture, that’s a different story and a bigger problem than your hiring process.

But if the bad and ugly are inevitable, put it out there.  At least the candidate can make a fully informed decision, which can be the basis for a tough-love talk if they complain later.  Or, just maybe they have ideas that can improve the situation.

Someone was looking out for Chowder

The Humane Society was looking out for Chowder, to make sure he had a say in whether he “fit” his fur-ever family.

Give your job applicants that same opportunity by being transparent about what they will really encounter if offered the job.

Featured image courtesy of Humane America Animal Foundation

Carol Anderson
Carol Andersonhttp://andersonperformancepartners.com
CAROL is the founder and Principal of Anderson Performance Partners, LLC, a business consultancy focused on bringing together organizational leaders to unite all aspects of the business – CEO, CFO, HR – to build, implement and evaluate a workforce alignment strategy. With over 35 years of executive leadership, she brings a unique lens and proven methodologies to help CEOs demand performance from HR and to develop the capability of HR to deliver business results by aligning the workforce to the strategy. She is the author of Leading an HR Transformation, published by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2018, which provides a practical RoadMap for human resource professionals to lead the process of aligning the workforce to the business strategy, and deliver results, and writes regularly for several business publications.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Carol — There aren’t many articles I save, but this is one of them. You gave me a great idea for a workshop activity that can be spun in a few different ways, e.g. have participants craft a notice paralleling Chowder’s that is reflective of their leadership style.

    I agree that companies need to be more transparent, but candidates need to be more “demanding,” too. In an earlier life, I conducted numerous interviews where the candidate never asked a question! Not curious? Not hired.

    Finally, a friend of mine was telling me about an organization he’s working for now where the org culture is slowing revealing itself. The way he describes it, the top managers are clueless. They routinely miss opportunities to be real leaders. It’s like their heads are not completely in the game. I don’t think they could spell “transparent” much less be it. Hopefully an anomaly.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jeff – there are probably a couple trillion good examples of clueless leaders. The word “transparent” first hit me as a big danger spot when with a healthcare organization that wanted to post quality numbers to the public. BUT, a.) the numbers weren’t perfect and b.) the staff was unable to provide a cogent explanation when asked about the numbers. That was one of many run ins I had with Marketing…..

      Good exercise – let me know how it goes.

  2. After I wrote the article, I learned that the response to the bio for Chowder created such high volume of interest that they had to take it down to give themselves time to sort through all the applications! Here is the verbiage that described Chowder…..written by a volunteer at the Animal Heartline named Dayna Rojas. Apparently all the bios she wrote are pretty awesome – go check them out at animalheartline.org.
    ——————————————————————————— ·
    He’s officially adoptable! And his bio sounds like the worst dog in the world!

    He’s actually pretty awesome and freaking hysterical. Just sounds terrible on paper.
    🤣
    Chowder
    Breed: English Bulldog x
    Foster Location: Aurora, IL. No out of state applicants, please.

    Cats: Unknown. But let’s go with no. No seems like a solid plan.

    Home Recommendation: Single Family. Fenced yard. He’s a loud barker and needs leash work.

    Kids: Yes. But how tough are your kids? He is a stumpy legged, thick bodied, giant headed, wrecking ball. No human, big nor small gets treated differently by Chowder. He is in your face, on your lap and he’s gonna love you. And he’s gonna love you so much it hurts. Body parts do get stepped on. Some of those body parts are more sensitive than others, and he will step on them all. He lives with 3 kids, ages 6, 8 and 13. He will knock kids over and steal their blankets to whip around and whack himself in the head with. He also does this with toys. HARD toys. Everything is a game so if your child is crying because Chowder just stole his stuffed animal, Chowder doesn’t care. That stuffed animal was worth it. Man up, kid.

    Recommendation of older children unless you’ve also got “bull in a China shop” kids. He can also get “mouthy” when he gets overstimulated. Chewing on sleeves or hands. He redirects very nicely with a toy that’s appropriate. He is also “humpy” the first couple days. No, I didn’t try to type “jumpy” I meant to type “humpy”. No, he isn’t trying to dominate you or your kids. He’s overexcited and probably has some nervous energy with all the newness. The humping behavior was easily redirected and stopped quickly as he settled in.

    Crate Trained: Getting there! Goes in very easily with treats. Will run right in if a treat is thrown in there. Will bark for a few minutes but settles. If he’s in a crate, in a room alone and he hears a lot of commotion, he will bark. If you’ve left and the house is quiet, he’s quiet. He’s great in the crate if someone is in the same room with him though. He likes being with his people. He happily snoozes in an open crate during the day if you’re working from home and the crate is near your work area.

    Potty Trained: Not 100% but he’s doing well! He was a “marker” the first couple days. This was not a matter of potty training but that he was marking new areas and he was not yet neutered (he is now). The marking completely stopped within a couple days. He’s been good about going to the backdoor. He goes out and does his business and will bark at the backdoor when he wants to come in.

    Dogs: At this time, we’re listing him as an only dog. Dog intros are tough. He has zero boundaries, takes no cues and just goes right in. Other dogs don’t enjoy his meets. Chowder starts to get frustrated when he’s not able to get right to the dog and the energy just gets too high. We’re working on this in the meantime though.

    Leash Manners: Forget it. None. Get that harness ready and hold on tight. Chowder is gonna take you for a walk.

    He’s got jowls for days, and they’re comin’ in hot. Right in your direction.
    Those clean and dry clothes you’re wearing…well…they’re no longer clean, nor dry. Why didn’t you just wear dirty clothes?

    This dude is gross! Watching him drink water is quite the sight. Half the bowl is gone almost immediately after he starts drinking. Does he drink too much you ask? Is there a medical reason why he goes through that much water? Nope. Half that water he’s drinking, doesn’t end up in his mouth. It’s hanging off his face, it’s in every area outside the water bowl, and he leaves a disgusting and slippery trail, wherever he decides to travel. Have drool, will travel.

    He farts. And he farts a lot. They’re deadly smelling. While sleeping once, he farted so loud, he was jolted awake by the noise and the forceful vibration of his own butthole. He was terrified and he looked around as if someone had come to attack him. Think he was scared? Now, picture the person laying next to him that was startled first by his fart, and then even more startled by the dog, jolting up abruptly, as if they were both under siege. Nothing like a dog and a human both having the crap scared out of them…by a fart. That fart took quite a few minutes for us to both calm down from. Scariest fart of our lives.

    Chowder is a goof! There’s not much he takes too seriously. Besides treats. Treats are serious business! He will do just about anything for a treat. Even stuff he really doesn’t want to do. But treats are life.

    With a face and personality like Chowder’s we think he will still find his furever home, even if he’s gross and has no manners. But this guy is super treat motivated and with some positive training and consistency, he’ll be well on his way to having manners.

    He’ll still be gross though. You can’t fix that. Embrace the gross.

    He’s overall an easy dog that is sweet, happy, cuddly and isn’t overly energetic. He loves playing and is a bulldozer but he relaxes and naps a lot too. He doesn’t require mass amounts of exercise. He is more than happy to lounge around in bed and watch tv with his humans.

    Oh! Almost forgot! He snores. It’s not quiet.

    If you’re interested in meeting this perfect specimen of a dog, please fill out an application at animalheartline.org and his foster mom will contact you.

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