Welcome to the 3rd blog post on Trustworthiness. This week we are going to dive into the second characteristic of trustworthiness – Be Transparent. We are continuing to leverage the 2002 research study published in Business Ethics on the ethical benefits of trust-based partnering. In this post we are identifying steps you should take to show you are transparent as well as red flags you should pay attention to indicating a partner might not be transparent. Lastly, we will consider a BlindSpot of which to be aware so you don’t undermine your own reputation accidently.
-Communicate openly and with frankness
These actions to show transparency are applicable to your different stakeholder partners: your employees, your customers, your vendors, your shareholders and other stakeholders. They are referred to below simply as partner. It might be your human resources team that applies these actions to your employees, your marketing team that applies them to your customers, your procurement team that applies them to your vendors and your leadership team that applies these to your shareholders. Or, if you are a small organization, you might have to balance your time between the various stakeholders, as I’m sure you are used to doing.
How you can show you are Transparent:
- Constantly trade information – set up and keep meetings at regular intervals with partners
- Keep messages simple and clear – messages around the shared purpose, the plan to get to the purpose, foreseen risks and realized risks
- Acknowledge the contributions of the partner
- Listen to the experience, ideas, and concerns of the partner summarizing findings to show understanding
- Ensure a fair exchange between you and the partner – if you are asking someone to do more or accept less (another company, an employee, a customer) make adjustments to what you provide (more credit, more money, additional time off, a discount on a product or service)
When dealing with another company – pay attention to these Red Flags indicating the partner you are working with might not be Transparent:
- Not returning calls or communications; actively avoiding meeting or communicating with you
- Lack of clarity, articulation, agreement or understanding on shared purpose and plan
- You hear a different answer, different excuse or different explanation to the same question
- In publicity, the partner fails to acknowledge or recognize the effort and work you put into the partnership and work
- Concerns and recommendations not acknowledged or addressed
- Partner might meet contractual obligation but does not meet your expectations of how the partnership should flourish – your hunch tells you that you are contributing an unfair amount of effort and commitment to the relationship
Lastly, we should consider and be mindful of possible BlindSpots. BlindSpots are psychological tendencies that blind us to ethical decision making and ethical action. BlindSpots can get in the way of our commitment to do the right thing. They are a part of everyone’s psychology. Our minds do a lot of work to make our daily lives easier, sometimes oversimplifying, overgeneralizing, or just plain overlooking things. Occasionally, this threatens our commitment to ethics. In aiming to be transparent, be cautious of the BlindSpot often known as Moral Myopia.
In Moral Myopia, we have our moral blinders on; sometimes we aren’t even aware when there is an ethical aspect to a situation. Since we are goal oriented, we miss red flags or purposefully overlook them.
For example, during a shortage of masks and hand-sanitizers many essential personnel are seeking ways to get these necessary supplies. Companies and people in our communities are stepping up. Some companies are asking for donations to make the masks and/or hand-sanitizer, asking for supplies, money or distribution. Some are also considering selling left over products to help cover the hard dollar costs of production, and to keep paying their employees. When asking for the donations – what could be the impact of NOT disclosing they plan to sell the surplus supplies? It’s easy to overlook the ethical issue here – that people may perceive they donated under false pretenses however, this can be solved by being transparent with the plan to sell surplus supplies. Getting to this point requires first considering what possible ethical dilemma are in our plans and that requires slowing down and asking the question.
Next we’ll deep dive into being true.
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Source of helpful information leveraged in this post:
Wood, G., McDermott, P., & Swan, W. (2002). The ethical benefits of trust-based partnering: the example of the construction industry. Business Ethics: A European Review, 11(1), 4–13.