Clearview Counterpoint: Transparency - How Much is Too Much for Your Career?

Clearview Counterpoint: Transparency – How Much is Too Much for Your Career?

2009-09-14 20:09:51

We are in the age of transparency and for job seekers – and even employees; the question is how much is too much?  Social media via sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, allow us to expose details about our personal and professional activities and sentiments. In last week’s school address, President Obama warned children about what they put on their Facebook pages as it relates to their future reputation. Should there be restrictions or guidelines to how much we expose? Should there be limits on transparency? That is this month’s Clearview Collection Point-Counterpoint Debate.

Rusty Rueff: There are no secrets, so it doesn’t matter what you have chosen to tell a prospective employer or not.  What you expose and share about yourself on any social media site is fair-game to be revealed.

Jeff Hunter: Transparency is a good thing. More transparency is a better thing. Transparency reduces risk, increases the likelihood of engaged talent and is the only way to build more innovative companies.

Hank Stringer: How much is too much? Haven’t we crossed that bridge? Isn’t the cat out of the bag? If it is too much how in the world do we put the genie back in the bottle. From an elder point of view, the consequences for much of today’s transparency for workers will be felt throughout their careers.

John Sumser: When I was an east coast executive, I had a tailor. The suits I wore fit better than any clothes I’ve owned since. Delivering that level of customization required him to touch me in places usually reserved for lovers.

There is a direct correlation between level of intimacy and fit. If you want perfect tailoring, you have to have full disclosure. Intimacy builds on honesty.

My tailor did not need reciprocal transparency in order to deliver the result. I didn’t need to touch him. I needed clarity about prices, quality and schedule.

He offered a customer list (and had pictures of his customers on the wall). He told impressive rags to riches stories as we reviewed my wardrobe decisions. The supplementary information strengthened the quality of my experience. I always left his shop walking a foot off the ground.

Liz Ryan: Transparency, like nearly every new-ish idea that comes down the pike, was quick to be labeled a lot of things, and ‘virtuous’ seems to be the transparency flavor of the day.

Jeff: Many employers think they are avoiding risk by selecting people who think, act, feel, believe and (sometimes) look the same way. It worked for giant industrial mills in the 1860‘s, and it worked for IBM in the 1950s and so it has become a basic way of doing business.

But the times, they are a changing. The way companies make money now is through innovation. And if they can’t innovate, they are outsourcing work to cheaper workforces in other parts of the globe. Regardless of whether you think that is right or not, it is a reality.

In that world, our world, the world of today, the risk from companies from lack of transparency is far greater than the risk of opening up the old kimono.

Companies that look to repeat the past by recreating it in the future by hiring the same type of people can’t innovate effectively. Transparency gives employers a better chance of finding the talent they need to shake the place up.

Rusty: The real question, in my mind is what do you actively share and reveal?  I was on the phone with a candidate for a Board seat the other day and he said to me, “I am very transparent.  Everything you will want to know and more about me is on my website.  Feel free to take a look and also have others take a look”.  I appreciated his approach, because it is one that I use myself, but not everyone thinks about the ramifications of their personal, political, religious, etc. points of view.  Laws were created to not have those questions asked for a reason.  That said, if you are comfortable in sharing more than required, understanding the potential outcomes, then go for it.

Liz: Lots of successful business people, and others whose wealth and celebrity put them beyond the reach of judgment (or beyond caring, anywhere) like to say in interviews “I’m transparent. See? I was busted for jaywalking in 1982. I don’t care if you know about it.” Other folks, and many job-seekers, are not in that envious position. If you’re 22 years old and job-hunting, you might care a lot about some unfortunate event that dogs you, because your professional star hasn’t risen to the point where everyone knows and loves you, pot bust and all. For those people, ultimate transparency might not be ideal. I’d advise them to scrub the Facebook profile and take other steps to make sure the old, bad stuff doesn’t overwhelm the message they’re sending to the professional marketplace now.

One day, maybe they’ll let the impetuous-youth cat out of the bag, when their accomplishments have put them in a place where it can’t hurt them any more.

Rusty: A year ago I began writing a faith-based blog that I have now added into my signature file on my emails. I know that for some, this is a turn-off and I am sure I lose business and contacts because of it.  On the other hand, I have made a decision that if someone is turned off  by what I believe and can’t accept me for who I am, then it’s probably all the better that we don’t do business together anyway.

Jeff: You can’t get without giving, and you can’t expect transparency if you aren’t willing to offer it first. So potential employers and potential talent are in the same boat: they both need to be transparent to reduce risk, increase engagement and keep (or start) innovating.

So not only do I think that transparency is a good thing, I think it is a required thing, for you and for your future employer. The example Rusty gives is a great one. If you are a person of faith, do you really want to be spending your time pretending you are not?

Hank: To Rusty’s point, one’s religion or personal lifestyle known will affect work decisions and relationships. It is human nature. I wish it wasn’t but it is. So transparency to a 21-yearold today with pictures from that ‘killer party’ posted may not be appreciated when they reach 31 interviewing for that ‘killer career’ opportunity. I think we have taken transparency to a level many will, at some point in their lives regret. Or as the President told students last week…be careful what you post on Facebook.

John: Transparency is not supposed to be equal on both sides of a relationship!