I think the next decade will be about trust. This is the only decade in history that will be formed wholly by Gen X—we are so small that our age of power is brief. But research from sources like Tammy’s Erikson’s book, What’s Next Gen X?, shows that the most pronounced traits of Gen X are no patience for veneers, hierarchy, and BS-laden idealism. Gen X will oversee a decade of trust.

A survey from Deloitte ushers in this decade of trust. Deloitte reports that most people who are job hunting are doing it because they don’t trust their employer. And most Human Resources executives think the number-one factor in turnover right now is transparency—less transparency means more turnover.

When it comes to transparency, corporations are ahead of individuals, but only by necessity. Soon, though, people who are not transparent will not make it in the workforce. Here are ways to think about transparency to make your own career path one of transparency and trust:

1. Transparency is about doing good.

Omidyar Network (a nonprofit funded by the guy who invented ebay) just funded a company that helps government move toward transparency. It’s significant that the company is named SeeClickFix—government transparency is not about finger pointing and sensationalism. Clearly, it should be about improving the lives of citizens, fixing what can be fixed.

But personal transparency is easily misunderstood. There are so many blog posts about people dumping their life story, their darkest secret, or their second-best-friend’s darkest secret. The posts are predictable and boring, and most importantly, not what transparency should be, because it is not aimed at helping other people. It’s aimed at helping the writer only.

2. Transparency has a goal of kindness

I was having lunch with AJ Jacobs a few years ago, as he was doing the antics he wrote about in his hilarious book, The Year of Living Biblically. He was telling me about how he was testing out the Ten Commandments: specifically, thou shall not lie.

As someone who lives in a family full of Asperger’s, I know that an instinct to lie is actually a gift. The instinct to lie is what allows us to think through the following steps in a conversation:

  1. Consider the other person’s feelings
  2. Empathize
  3. Think of something to say that is not a lie but does not hurt anyone unkindly.

That process requires us to cultivate an ability to lie, which, in turn, cultivates an ability to self-edit. There should have been a commandment: Thou shall self-edit, because it’s kind.

So there is a moral obligation that goes along with transparency. Transparency is not a carte blanche to disregard peoples’ feelings in the name of truth. In fact, that is not transparency, that is Asperger’s. And it’s a debilitating way to live because it’s so completely anti-social.

Here’s an example of someone acting unkindly in the name of transparency: A student at the University of California —Davis veterinary school had a baby mid-term. A professor asked the class presidents to help him run a poll to determine her fate as a student in his class.

Here is the email that went out to the students.

Dear Colleagues,


One of our classmates recently gave birth and will be out of class for an unknown period of time. This means she will undoubtedly miss one, or more, or all quizzes in VMD 444. Dr. Feldman is not sure how to handle this and has requested the class give input and vote. He has provided us with 6 options on which to vote and is open to any other ideas you may have. Most likely a CERE poll will be up next week and a voting will close no later than Wednesday. If you have other suggestions please email them to Dan or I ASAP. We will alert you to the opening of voting. Below are listed the options that Dr. Feldman has suggested. Please reserve comment on these options and provide us your opinion on them by voting when the time comes. Thank you for your understanding in this matter.


a) automatic A final grade

b) automatic B final grade

c) automatic C final grade

d) graded the same as everyone else: best 6 quiz scores out of a possible 7 quiz scores (each quiz only given only once in class with no repeats)

e) just take a % of quiz scores (for example: your classmate takes 4 quizzes, averages 9/10 points = 90% = A)

f) give that student a single final exam at the end of the quarter (however this option is only available to this one student, all others are graded on the best 6 quiz scores and the % that results)


Please let us know if you have other thoughts on how to handle this situation and please keep your eye out for the upcoming vote.


Thank you for your time and consideration,


Your Presidents

The professor is Edward Feldman DVM, Chair of the Department of Medicine & Epidemiology at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. He has confirmed that he thinks this process was appropriate. Here is the full story, reported on ScienceBlogs.

This is not transparency or collaboration. It’s witch hunting. Know the difference.

3. Transparency is being a real person.

Most of you know that transparency is a trend. But many of you lie, and not to be kind. You say what you think you should say. Like the blog post about how you are leaving your job and how great your job was and how sad you are to go, when everyone at your company knows you hate your boss and that’s why you left after less than a year. It doesn’t mean you can’t write a goodbye post. It just means you have to do it in a more honest way. Like, thank specific people for specific things instead of writing the post like it was the best job of your life.

Here’s another example. Periodically, I email women who publicly bash me for post on Tech Crunch: Women Don’t Run Startups Because They’d Rather Have Children. For those of you who didn’t read it, I wrote that women don’t get VC funding because women don’t ask for it. And the reason women don’t ask for it is because you can’t have a life if you run a VC-backed company. Women want to have a life outside of work.

In the 5oo comments on TechCrunch, and subsequent 100 posts bitching about my posts, many women tell me they are doing their family and their company and they’re happy and that I’m demotivating to women. But my point, which many people miss, is that VC backed companies are very different than non-VC-backed companies.

Here’s what I get in return. That women who did not understand the distinction apologize to me, and women who did understand the distinction have lost their marriages while they’ve been running their VC-backed company and taking care of their kids.

Don’t argue with me on this, ok? I’m right. The reason you don’t know I’m right is because women don’t announce they sacrificed living with their children’s father in order to run a startup. Who would announce that besides me?

My problem though, is that women are willing to lie about what life is like for them in order to tell other women that they “have it all” and so can everyone else. I get angry just writing this. The biggest secret in business today is that the divorce rate for women with young kids running VC-backed startups is nearly 100%. And the reason I can report this statistic with such confidence is because the number of women you need to ask to get the statistic is so small.

So I think the worst offenders of transparency are the ones who claim it as their value and then lie. To themselves, and to everyone else.

You do not need to be transparent at the expense of your true self. You don’t need to be transparent about stuff you can’t personally cope with. But you do need to be completely honest with yourself about why you draw the boundaries that you draw. Transparency is about personal honesty first, public honesty second.