The Transparency & Accountability Paradox: Exploring Hidden Pitfalls & Manipulation

Transparency and accountability refer to the openness and accessibility of organizational information. These two terms also go hand in hand with the responsibility for actions within a company or organization that promote trust and integrity when it comes to policies within companies and businesses and leadership within an organization.

Be aware of individuals in an organization or business that have some managerial power and use the following pitfalls against their co-workers:

Over the years, I've learned about some individuals who had the following mindsets when it came to manipulating situations by negatively weaponizing transparency and accountability by using it against other individuals.

Some individuals will use token transparency by providing selective information to create an illusion of transparency without entirely genuinely sharing meaningful details. These individuals tend to use the excessive invasion of privacy or what I call excessive transparency, fringing on individuals' privacy, creating a dilemma between transparency, openness, and the need to pry into individuals, personal or sensitive information. More importantly, individuals look for unintended consequences by implementing this negative manipulating transparency without caring for potential impacts, such as publicizing specific performance metrics that may encourage gaming the system against an individual or group rather than so-called genuine improvement. These individuals usually distort information. Misleading statistics, selective reporting, and framing distort the accurate picture. These individuals tend to play the blame game. They over-emphasize metrics relying on quantitative metrics for accountability, neglecting qualitative aspects and not capturing the full complexity of the performance or the decision-making of an individual or group. To make themselves look knowledgeable and smart, they tend to create an information overload by providing too much information without the proper context, overwhelming individuals who have to make decisions, and, in fact, create challenges and, in turn, create disequilibrium and possible organizational chaos.

These individuals in managerial positions and supervisory roles will select some entities for accountability, holding specific individuals or branches accountable while overlooking or protecting others. They tend to have an assumption of shared values that everyone is involved with the same values and priorities, pulling along other stakeholders and accepting this individual's damaging manipulating pitfalls. These types of individuals who look for manipulated negativity may often create a fear of retaliation or negative consequences that deter individuals from reporting issues undermining an organization's or company's effectiveness.

Just from some readings, here are some historical examples of the pitfalls of manipulating that individuals used transparency and accountability.

  • Subprime mortgage crisis of 2007
  • Enron scandal of 2001
  • NASA Space Shuttle Challenger disaster of 1986 with the o-ring solid rocket booster failure
  • Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011 and its disclosure of inadequacies of safety measures
  • Flint water crisis of 2014 to 2016
  • Boeing 737 Max crashes during the years of 2018 and 2019

These are just a few examples that historically show the pitfalls and negativity of manipulating actual accountability and transparency that are not leaders in managerial positions, consequently affecting individuals, families, communities, societies, organizations, companies, and industries.

Always be cognizant and have a clear, intelligent awareness of any individual saying to you that he or she is looking at a specific item or "issue" through a transparency and accountability lens. They may be weaponizing, twisting, and manipulating those two terms for their own negative damaging agenda.

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