Transparency breeds trust in the integrity of organisations and competence of leaders, while kindness boosts positivity and productivity with employees confident that leaders have their best interests at heart, research has shown.
Increasing a company's transparency, while adopting kinder management styles could lead to a significant reduction of up to 65% in collusion attempts among employees, reveals a recent study led by a team of international researchers at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore).
For clarification, transparency in the workplace is described as an honest, two-way openness between employees and management. This openness also further extends to sharing information involving company matters, such as the process behind business decisions and the company performance.
Meanwhile, per the research, manager kindness includes paying above market-rate wages or being generous with bonuses or non-monetary benefits, efforts to improve employee working conditions, the provision of on-the-job training, employee education programs.
Lastly, employee collusion takes on many forms: ranging from fund embezzlement to more subtle forms of scheming between employees.
Along with researchers from the Amsterdam Business School, University of Amsterdam, the team carried out a roleplaying experiment where 104 participants were assigned either manager or employee roles in a simulated company and told to carry out tasks.
Results showed that those who played the role of the ‘manager’ were more open about company processes or practices, which reduced attempts by ‘employees’ to conspire or collude by almost two thirds (from 37% to 13%), compared to when the ‘managers’ did not divulge any details about the company.
Assistant Professor Yin Huaxiang from NTU’s Nanyang Business School, who led the study, said: “Previous studies have shown that more transparency in companies contributes to higher job satisfaction among employees. Now, with our findings, we highlight that more open and kinder management benefit the company as it would cut down on collusion attempts.
"On the employee front, transparency and kinder management styles also help improve staff morale, lower job-related stress, while increasing work satisfaction and boosting performance. This shows the importance of considering the work culture in companies – it has important implications for designers of corporate policies.”
However, the researchers also found that the benefits of transparency depend on how kindly employees are treated by their managers.
When employees in the organisation are generally treated kindly, increasing transparency sharply reduces collusion among employees. On the other hand, when employees are treated unkindly, increasing internal transparency ‘enables’ unkindly treated employees to find potential partners in collusion. Transparency is then a ‘double-edged sword.
By revealing how kindly employees are treated by their managers, transparency increases or decreases the probability that individuals are singled out as potential ‘partners in crime’.
Manager kindness also extends to social interactions initiated by managers, such as emotional support, giving compliments, words of recognition, and organising social events at work.
Asst Prof Yin added: “The results from our experiment show that transparency and manager kindness jointly affect the likelihood that employees initiate collusion, as our findings indicate that increasing internal transparency can also facilitate an unkindly treated employee’s search for a colleague to collude with.”
If colleagues are treated kindly, this decreases employees’ tendency to approach these colleagues for possible engagement in a collusive effort. Therefore, organisations are encouraged to combine both transparency and kind management styles for the best possible effect.
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