Learning & Development, Talent

Leadership: The Risk of Giving Too Much Information to Staff

In the modern workplace, companies increasingly encourage transparency with employees. For example, by keeping staff up to date on dynamic situations like COVID-19 impacts to the company, economic concerns, or even potential layoffs, companies can avoid stirring up the rumor mill or creating additional anxiety.

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Similarly, we’ve written before that providing staff with some broader context about assignments can help them perform better because they’ll have a better idea of where their task fits in with the larger goal.

Avoiding the Potential for Overwhelm

But, while there are certainly benefits of providing ample information, more is not always better. Providing employees with a massive dump of information can overwhelm them, causing confusion and ultimately reducing productivity while increasing stress levels.

For example, does a team working on an analysis of production errors for a given product in the previous month necessarily need to have data on production errors for all products over the past 10 years, in addition to industry benchmarks? That information may be useful for a follow-up analysis doing some sort of comparison, but it isn’t necessary for the task at hand.

High-Level Approach for Context

One strategy managers can use is to provide a high-level overview of what additional background information exists related to the task, to the extent it may be useful to provide additional context.

For instance, in the analysis of production errors example mentioned above, a manager might tell staff, “For some context, the industry standard range for error rates in a system like this is between X and Y. One of the purposes of this assignment is to get an idea of where we stack up against that range.”

Access vs. Data Dump

There is an important difference between access and a complete data dump. Another strategy managers can use is to let employees know what information is available without actually giving it to them right off the bat. If employees need it, they can ask for it.

While transparency with staff is important, it’s also possible to provide too much information. This can lead to employees getting lost in the weeds. Managers should strive to find a balance between providing too much and not enough so employees have the resources they need but not so much that they lose focus.

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