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A FAILURE TO COMM
Be careful dealing with a boss’s lack of transparency.
BY BUD BAKER, PhD, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
For reasons he hasn’t disclosed, my boss,
a director of our company, doesn’t permit me to share project details and financial status with my team members. As a
result, they don’t fully understand our project status or
objectives, which has predictably led to big trouble. I
don’t want to create problems with my boss, and I’m
not ready to resign. What are my options?
ence, and events in his life have convinced him that
when it comes to information, silence is safer than
sharing, and secrecy is superior to synergy.
The late management guru Peter Drucker
used to say that when sane, rational and
moral people behave in ways that seem
inexplicable, it’s because they see a reality different than ours.
So let’s start by giving your boss that
triple benefit of the doubt: He’s sane, rational and moral. (If he’s not…well, that would
lead to a whole different sort of article.)
This leads us then to the second part of Mr.
Drucker’s maxim: Your boss is seeing a reality you don’t.
One possibility is culture. In this case,
the question comes from a person in sub-
Saharan Africa. A friend of mine, a professor
and author who happens to hail from the
same country, laughed long and hard when
he heard the question. “This boss is behav-
ing the way that any boss would behave in
that country,” he said. “We are raised there
to believe that if people have knowledge,
they will use it against us, to enrich them-
selves personally at our expense. The only
way to protect against that is to guard all
knowledge jealously, so that we are not taken
Given that culture changes only slowly
over time, there may not be a lot you can
do here. Your boss’s psychological maps, the
way he sees the world, were established a
long time ago. They will not be easily modi-
fied, by you or anyone else.
There is, however, another possible explanation, one which gives us more reason for
hope: Your boss is a product of his experi-
Building Your Case
If your boss is wary of sharing project data, you won’t
persuade him otherwise with generalities. You need
hard evidence that clearly shows the value of transparency. One great source is an article entitled “The
success of international development projects, trust
and communication: an African perspective” by Amadou Diallo and Denis Thuillier of the Université du
Québec à Montréal [International Journal of Project
Management, April 2005]).