Information Disclosure Dilemma

Information Disclosure Dilemma

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To inform or not to inform subordinates about the final goal of a sensitive task?

I ask it myself every time I have to assign such a task to my team. In a corporate context, the answer is not that straightforward

  • the level of sensitivity affects the comfortable level of disclosure of the task goal;
  • a degree of trust to the task executor makes sense, regardless of their technical capability;
  • and, executor’s immaturity might be the real road blocker even if they are trusted.
Still, I see it more as a chicken-n-egg problem.

It is hard to obtain a higher level of trust in your team without disclosing important and sensitive information related to the task. I also observe that sensitive tasks are regularly the complicated ones. Being resolved, they boost the maturity.

Also, executor’s perception that he/she is trusted usually leads to uncountable positive effects: on-target results, in many cases above expectations, with additional analytics, worthy conclusions and even suggestions… which were not initially requested yet are immediately becoming the helpful ones!

The negative side effect is a risk of publicity of the sensitive task details, which might affect the image of supervisors’ chain. I know many managers who preserve the conspiracy for exactly this reason.

While not claiming this is a silver bullet, I stick to conscious over-disclosure of information to the trusted to let them boost their maturity, and I gradually expand the internal circle of trusted subordinates by making moderate-risk disclosures and observing how people react.

What is your practice towards this problem? Do you think my approach makes sense?

1 comment
  • That sounds reasonable, though many companies have direct compliance restrictions that oblige to share “minimum amount of info” directly required for task completion. Not a byte more. So giving any broader context will put me as a task owner at risk, because I will be responsible for data leakage if any.

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