Leading in the Age of Exploding Transparency

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Frank is having a terrible morning.

The seasoned CIO wakes up groggy to a flurry of texts from his team, who found out about the CEO’s retirement from LinkedIn because the internal announcement got stuck in everyone’s spam filters. As Frank huffs and puffs around the park during his morning run, his boss quizzes him by phone about some troubling numbers on a brand-new dashboard. Arriving at the office already feeling beleaguered, he spits iced coffee all over his keyboard when an email alerts him that another leader in the organization dramatically documented her departure on “QuitTok” — racking up half a million views already.

He spends much of the morning fielding questions from a group of software engineers who found roles similar to theirs listed on job sites for 20% more than their current salaries, while his marketing leadership team goes back and forth about whether the numbers from the new dashboards or the old spreadsheets are correct. Just before lunch, his daughter texts him, “Dad, have u seen ur Glassdoor lately?” She screenshots an abysmal rating for his company with comments like “I can’t decide if management are stupid, criminals, or just criminally stupid.”

By the time he staggers to the company cafeteria, Frank has had a week’s worth of misery. And it’s only noon.

Welcome to leadership in a hyper-transparent world. Frank is fictional, but his challenges are real. The hoary cliché is true: Information flows today at the speed of light — and it’s moving far too fast for many leaders to grapple with. Whether it’s social media channels making company dirty laundry public (or even displaying “clean underwear” information — not scandalous, but not intended to be seen broadly) or internal technology systems throwing an array of decontextualized data onto the screens of folks unprepared to interpret it, technology is meaningfully eroding the information advantage leaders have enjoyed since the dawn of the working world.

Goodbye Watercooler Grumbling; Hello QuitTok

Knowledge is power — and today, everyone seems to have it.

Unfortunately, greater availability of information on workforce issues like pay, layoffs, or diversity, as well as business performance metrics at the micro and macro scales, means that the average worker is getting hit with more bad, or at least uncomfortable, news.



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1. D. Kent, “The State of Workplace Messaging 2023: Microsoft Teams, Webex, & More,” Mio (blog), accessed Nov. 14, 2023, https://dispatch.m.io.

2. I. Lunden, “Glassdoor Acquires Fishbowl, a Semi-Anonymous Social Network and Job Board, to Square Up to LinkedIn,” TechCrunch, Sept. 14, 2021, https://techcrunch.com.

3. M. Cerullo, “With #Quittok, Gen Zers Are ‘Loud Quitting’ Their Jobs,” CBS News, April 21, 2023, www.cbsnews.com.

4. M. Schrage, B. Pring, D. Kiron, et al., “Leadership’s Digital Transformation: Leading Purposefully in an Era of Context Collapse,” MIT Sloan Management Review, Jan. 26, 2021, https://sloanreview.mit.edu.

5. M. Xu, Z. Wei, and J. Wu, “How Emotional Communication Happens in Social Media: Predicting ‘Arousal-Homophily-Echo’ Emotional Communication With Multi-Dimensional Features,” Telematics and Informatics Reports 8 (October 2022): 1-14.

6. L. McHale, “The Curious Case of Phineas Gage,” in “Neuroscience for Organizational Communication: A Guide for Communicators and Leaders” (Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2022), 29-34.

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Comment (1)
Yves Garenne
Article Passionnant ! merci. Et dire que les dirigeants des entreprises européennes ont peur de la transparence requise par les CSRD / ESRS ! Cela en devient risible.
Merci Madame

[Fascinating article! THANKS. And to think that the leaders of European companies are afraid of the transparency required by the CSRD / ESRS! This becomes laughable.
thank you Madam]