LinkedIn’s been on something of a roll lately, delivering a huge earnings beat for the fourth quarter and continuing to rapidly grow. And despite rolling out tons of new features, the company runs an extremely tight ship, with relatively few leaks of privileged information to people outside the companyYesterday, CEO Jeff Weiner rewarded every employee with an iPad mini to celebrate the company’s success.
Fortune hosted Weiner at a dinner last night, and reports that he attributes the lack of leaks to transparency and treating employees “like adults,” he says. “I’ve come to learn there is a virtuous cycle to transparency and a very vicious cycle of obfuscation.”
This cycle begins when a company hides things from employees, they have to dig to satisfy their curiosity, resent having to dig, and end up leaking. Then management further restricts information and goes on a hunt for the leakers, making the problem even worse.
According to Weiner, LinkedIn makes a conscious effort to do the opposite, to be as transparent as possible. He hopes that creates a virtuous cycle, where he can trust his employees, and they trust the company in return.
When companies try to hide things, whether it’s work on a new product, impending layoffs, a struggling division, or internal tension, it doesn’t just produce leaks. It makes people worse at their jobs. They feel less appreciated, less trusted, and less motivated. That’s why more companies are taking a step even further and becoming radically transparent, sharing even salary information across the entire company. The argument is that secrets eventually get out, and it’s better to manage it well than have a cycle of retaliation.
The base message for managers couldn’t be simpler. When people are treated like adults, they’re more likely to act like adults.
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