Sometimes, lessons in management come from unexpected places.
A few weeks ago, Disney announced that Michael Strahan would leave his cohost job on ABC’s Live! with Kelly and Michael to cohost Good Morning America. The news was a complete surprise to cohost Kelly Ripa — such a surprise that she called in sick April 20 in protest and didn’t return for six days.
This is a classic example of how a lack of transparency in an organizational culture can have negative outcomes. We don’t know why ABC chose to withhold Strahan’s departure news from Ripa, but in a recent interview with People, Ripa surmised that management probably just assumed she would be OK with their decision since she had worked at the network for so long.
“Sometimes when you are so comfortable with somebody,” she told People. “You may not give them the same consideration as somebody you're not as comfortable with — a certain formality falls away.”
Building a culture of transparency can help employees — new hires and veterans alike — feel that they’re a bigger part of a company. It also helps employees trust their employer and may have benefits in terms of retention.
And there are plenty of companies out there with transparent cultures. Take social media company Buffer for example — they release revenue figures, share employee salaries, and even show their customers how they spend their money.
Miami Herald workplace columnist Cindy Goodman recently interviewed TINYpulse CEO David Niu about the Ripa-Strahan situation. He underlined the importance of building a culture of workplace transparency with an anecdote about a recent case where he got pushback from a coworker after making a decision without consulting them. They were able to have an open conversation about the issue so that the employee didn’t feel the need to, say, call in sick for six days.
“The [coworker] said to me, ‘That’s a tough decision, and I understand why you made it, but I’m disappointed you weren’t upfront.’ I told him, ‘I will be brutally honest with you, but you have to take it in stride.’ That’s how we operate today.”
That same level of amicability seems absent from the Ripa-Strahan situation. Shortly after the news of Strahan’s departure broke, Disney decided that Strahan would leave Live! four months early. They also apologized — to Strahan, acknowledging they put him in a difficult situation.
“When you're dealing with big business, it’s easy to forget that you’re dealing with people and that people have feelings,” Ripa said in her People interview.
- Building an Organizational Culture of Transparency
- How to Practice Transparency in Decentralized Organizations