Sailor boy reminding executives that loose lips sink ships

 

Is it possible to be too transparent? In an era where candor is revered and people expect 24/7 access to every type of information, the answer, perhaps surprisingly, is: Yes.

Take the case of a company where senior leaders at a subsidiary have been shooting their mouths off. Employees have been nervous that their site may close. So, naturally, the grapevine has grown out of control. In response, leaders have been spending a lot of time talking to their teams.

So far, so good, right? Not really, no. The problem is that key decisions are still being made. And these leaders have incomplete or even incorrect information. So all their “transparency” is just fueling the fire of anxiety, not putting it out.

It would be better for those leaders to just zip it. Please understand: I’m not advocating that they disappear into their offices and shut their doors. I applaud their eagerness to spend time with their employees. But, at this stage, leaders need to listen, not talk. They need to say, “I don’t know” or “It hasn’t been decided yet.” They need to step up and act like leaders, which means exercising tact, discretion and good judgment.

"Loose lips sink ships" was the slogan the U.S. military used in World War II to advise servicemen not to disclose information that might help the enemy.

The advice still applies. Sometimes when the situation is uncertain, transparency is the easy way out. The difficult, and right thing to do, is to say nothing.

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