5 Reasons You Should Be Transparent at Work

Why Coming Clean Will Help You Advance & Lack of Transparency Will Hurt You

1. Announce Bad News on Your Own Terms

What happens if you ignore the above list and you do mess up? Fess up, and as soon as possible.

Professor Shelley Wigley at the University of Texas at Arlington looked at the phenomenon of "stealing thunder," whereby an individual breaks his own bad news. She looked at the contrasting strategies of those who respond only after the story breaks, and those who initiate the story. Eliot Spitzer, who, except for a short statement of apology read after the prostitution story hit the news, embargoed the media for two days, at which point he resigned. His replacement David Patterson, on the other hand, sat down with his wife and gave interviews in which both admitted to extramarital affairs. Wigley quoted Daily News reporter Juan Gonzalez: "Like any smart politician, he knows the best way to handle difficult news is to confront it squarely and rapidly." Similarly, Tiger Woods avoided the press about his then-alleged extramarital affairs while David Letterman made the announcement of his own affair in the intro to his late-night talk show.

Wigley observed the stealing thunder strategy has a mixed history: Initiators of bad information build credibility for themselves, but they might also prompt further investigation. Yet it’s also possible that by getting ahead of the story, they take the air out of it, deflating its value as a "gotcha" item. The results of her study confirmed the latter thesis: In terms of media coverage, "In both studies, sources who stole thunder were associated with more positive frames in both the headlines and articles."

Like most factors in business, transparency is an asset which can be strategically managed.  Done well, this could become a source of competitive advantage and enhance one’s personal brand and reputation.