Respecting Others, Part III: Information
Welcome to our last post in our Respecting Others series, where we’re examining oft-overlooked ways of disrespecting those around us. In our first two posts we discussed stealing people’s time, and unleashing upon them our poorly prepared communication.
In this post we’ll look at disrespect through withholding information. Now before we get started, let’s get one thing out of the way. I’m not saying that there is never a legitimate reason for withholding information from someone. I’m not talking about: secret recipes, magic tricks, nuclear proliferation, or your coworker who’s way too open about his bunions, for example.
I am talking about information that is pertinent to the shared goals of a group of people. Withholding that kind of information is disrespectful because it undercuts team members’ abilities to make decisions toward the shared goals.
At work, there are few things more frustrating than having responsibility without the resources to carry it out. Withholding information takes away a valuable resource. As a leader, you can’t afford to do that, especially because the goals they’re working towards are your goals.
Not only is it disrespectful, it’s counterproductive. It’s a classic power move that leaders mistakenly make with their people. The thinking goes something like, “Having all the answers got me to the top. I can’t just make my knowledge public. That will endanger my authority!” While that may be appropriate in terms of your competition, you’re not competing with your employees.
This fear-based move creates classes of citizens within an organization (those who know vs. those who don’t), and that breeds a culture of secrecy and doubt that is often at the heart of deep divisions, malcontent, and bickering within a company. The withholding of information becomes a sort of modus operandi for employees dealing with others outside of their “class”: managers to their teams, or this department to that department, for example.
The key here is to remember that we are a team and that our shared goals are best met when we’ve got what we need to make informed decisions.
Knowledge is power, and sharing that knowledge is respectful.