“If you can’t say something nice … don’t say anything at all”. This was great advice given to Thumper by Mrs. Rabbit in Disney’s 1942 classic movie Bambi. Even though we were taught this in kindergarten, we continue to be challenged by our lack of discretion. Whether it is sharing juicy stories about diplomats (Wall Street Journal’s article titled Vast Leaks Discloses Diplomatic Secrets) or passing along a rumor at work, we seem to forget that anything we write (unless it is on the back of a napkin) will live on forever. The secret to stopping the circulation of half truths by misinformed employees is not sharing less information, but sharing more information.
Little of the information that management keeps so close to the vest is dangerous in the hands of employees. In fact, it’s only dangerous when it’s not in their hands. Unless the information is a bona fide trade secret on par with the recipe for CocaCola, give it to your employees and teach them about handling proprietary information. Use the rule of thumb that employees should see all information they are mature enough to handle appropriately. In other words, if employees can objectively use the information to make better business decisions, give it to them.
Open communication means open: everything, the complete picture, all the time. The only rule should be to protect the privacy of individuals. For example, don’t share personal financial information unless it is absolutely critical. Control who has access to that type of information. Share everything else.