Modern-day organizations increasingly are seeking to create an “open” work environment—one that makes workers more observable—theorizing that transparency boosts performance. But a new study in Administrative Science Quarterly (ASQ) finds this trend may be counterproductive.
Ethan S. Bernstein of Harvard University published “The Transparency Paradox: A Role for Privacy in Organizational Learning and Operational Control” on June 21, 2012 in ASQ. Recognizing the prevalence of the trend in factories, the author provides field-based evidence that transparency is not “such a panacea” and makes a strong case for preserving worker privacy in the interest of productivity:
We typically assume that the more we can see, the more we can understand about an organization. This research suggests a counteracting force: the more that can be seen, the more individuals may respond strategically with hiding behavior and encryption to nullify the understanding of that which is seen.
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