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Career Advice

3 Things to Expect When Working for a Transparent Company

Posted by Sarah Greesonbach

Last Updated September 5, 2018

As you work through the job application and interview process with new companies, you’ll quickly see that the way your organization does business is not the only way to do business. If you work in a cubicle, it might be disorienting to see some open office spaces or even completely remote offices; and if you’re used to an organization with a  traditional top-down leadership style, it might throw you for a loop to run into companies that are embracing a more transparent way of doing business.

What makes a business or a company culture transparent? It’s all about how a company manages and communicates the flow of information with its employees. In some companies, information is distributed on a “need to know” basis, typically structured by seniority and job roles. In others, the default is to share information more than not and takes a collaborative and collective approach to decision-making... and switching from one environment to the other as you change jobs can have an enormous impact on your day-to-day satisfaction at work!

If you have the opportunity to work for a company with a transparent company culture, here are three new things you can expect when you accept the job:

1. Your coworkers (and maybe friends and family) will know how much money you make

Inside and outside of the workplace, discussing salary has traditionally been a taboo topic. In fact, a 2010 SHRM survey found that almost a quarter of workers surveyed said pay discussions were completely banned, and almost half said it was discouraged. But many companies are bucking the system by making that information freely available – if not to the public (like at Buffer) then at least to other employees (like at Whole Foods).


Before you accept a position at a company that makes salaries transparent, you’ll want to make sure that’s something that aligns with your values. After all, it can be uncomfortable to transition into a company that that doesn’t give you the option to keep your salary private, including the possibility of seeing raw data that shows how you’re valued compared to your coworkers, or dealing with the sore feelings of coworkers when you’re valued more than they are.

If you can get beyond the initial discomfort, however, you might come to enjoy the significant positive side-effects of working for a company with transparent salaries:

  • Companies with transparent salaries are in a position to be more proactive about fixing wage inequities and salary gaps and eliminating bias based on gender and race
  • You’re more likely to be compensated based on your skills and value to the company rather than subjective factors like how aggressively you negotiated during your interview
  • You won’t have to wonder how your compensation compares to your coworkers – it’s right there for you to see
  • If your salary is lower than your coworkers, you have an opportunity to have a frank discussion with your manager to find out what skills you can learn or contributions you can make to earn a higher salary

2. You’ll know a lot more about what’s happening within your organization

One of the most common signs of a toxic culture is that accurate information becomes hard to find and decisions are made without buy-in (or notice) of the team. In these situations, it can feel like the leadership team keeps important information secret and the only way to find out what’s going on is to engage in company gossip or other back-channel avenues of communication. Transparent company cultures offer a refreshing alternative to this kind of environment, where CEOs and managers can be more forthcoming, talking through potential changes and challenges long before they take place.

For most people, knowing the behind-the-scenes details is a source of empowerment and connection – you’d feel secure in the fact that you wouldn’t be blindsided by big changes. But for others, the free flow of high-level information might just lead to more stress on the job – after all, you wouldn’t know which challenges will turn into real problems, or what decision the leadership team will make.

Before you opt to work for a company where your day-to-day tasks might be interrupted by quick surveys about company-wide decisions or all-hands meetings to discuss potential changes to your benefits, consider how this environment would affect you. Would being more involved in how the business is running energize you and make you feel more involved in your work? Or will stress you out and distract you from the tasks on your own to-do list?

3. You’ll need to be comfortable discussing uncomfortable things

Ask anyone who works at a company with a transparent company culture – communication is one of the defining cornerstones of transparency. This is why transparency related to business or salary almost always translates into you and your coworkers receiving more information from the people who make decisions at your organizations. But there’s just one thing – communication is a two-way street. That means that when you work for a transparent organization, it’s not just about being on the receiving end of more emails and meeting invites. It’s about being invited into a conversation and being expected to participate.

In most scenarios, your part in a transparent culture may just be to share your opinion or experience when discussing big-picture issues. But in some situations, you may need to discuss uncomfortable things, like weighing in on your company’s decision to lay off some of the team or talking about why you aren’t worth the same salary as a coworker. Before you accept a position where you’ll be expected to calmly discuss these kinds of topics, you’ll want to be sure that that would be a welcome addition to your work life and not an anxiety-provoking one.

Should you work at a company with a transparent approach to culture? There’s no wrong or right answer to this question because it depends entirely on your workplace and communication preferences. Just make sure you’ve considered just how big a change it might be before you jump into a new role at a company with a transparent company culture.


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