How Transparent Should You Be with Employees During Times of Uncertainty?

John Boitnott
4 min readSep 7

Every business will run into uncertainty at some point. Unsettled times, almost by definition, are challenging to navigate, and pose an additional challenge for employee managers and other leaders: how transparent should they be with staff members?

It’s important to recognize at the outset that there are reasons to be frank and open with team members and reasons not to be, but I’ve found that most of the time, honesty is the best policy, and there are quite a few associated benefits.

Reasons to be transparent with employees

It rallies everyone behind a shared mission: When a team has a common goal, its members pull together to accomplish it. But if they have no idea a business is facing uncertainty, you rob them of an opportunity to become invested.

For example, let’s say you have to make $20,000 in the next month to make payroll. If you don’t inform employees about the issue, they are stripped of the opportunity to go even further above and beyond — to work additionally hard to bridge the (hopefully temporary) gap.

It eliminates overthinking and fear: Even if you don’t directly tell employees about the uncertainty facing your company, they’ll likely know something is up in any case. Maybe they’ve noticed that you seem more stressed, or that you have been attending more meetings than usual… and they might start worrying. In turn, this can cast a shadow on company morale. Don’t leave workers wondering.

It takes pressure off of you: As a business owner, you know that it can be hard to ask for help. But in uncertain times, the support of a valued employee or two can make all the difference in the world.

For instance, if your workload has dramatically increased, you might need to call in an experienced team member (or members) to help. In this situation, it’s in your best interest to tell them what’s going on. Otherwise, they might think you’ve simply decided to slack off on responsibilities and offload onto them.

Of course, transparency can’t erase all the stress and pressure that uncertainty brings, but when you share some part of the informational burden, you’ll likely find that you have a little…