Informants in the workplace


Information is an essential ingredient in the leader’s decision making arsenal. There are many established, credible resources at their disposal. There is everything from company databases, computer files, the Internet and consultants to the minds of employees. The information available in the minds of employees is critical. However, there may be situations where employees are reluctant to disclose relevant information for a number of reasons.

If the environment is not perceived as safe, people are reticent to step forward with their information. There may be employee surveys and numerous forums within an organization where data is accumulated. But, there is still a need to decipher the data and provide additional perspectives. These translations and interpretations can be provided by informants in the workplace.

An informant is defined by Webster’s New Riverside University dictionary as, “one who discloses information and one who furnishes cultural or linguistic information to a researcher.” Oftentimes, informants volunteer their services. They may be guided by a number of motives. One such motive may be a genuine desire to improve the culture of the workplace or team.

Secondly, informants may be driven by ulterior motives, hoping to be rewarded in some fashion. A pharmaceutical company discontinued their bonus program which disappointed a number of their representatives. A group of employees got together and complained and expressed their dissatisfaction. The most vocal member of the group became an informant and notified leadership of the various opinions expressed. The other members were chastised and eventually the informant was promoted. The moral of this story is to express your opinion in a situation where your insight is appreciated and the person can do something about it.

Thirdly, a leader may ask everyone to be an informant. They would like to create an environment where everyone can step forward and let them know the climate of the team. The leader would like to receive the word on the street regarding a new policy or procedure, directly from the employees.

Fourthly, there are situations where a leader may select a particular person or a small group of people, who have keen insight into the workplace. They may have the ability to articulate the feelings of the team.

Lastly, there are situations where a team may identify someone as a spokesperson, a group sanctioned employee. This person is an approved voice of the people.

There is crucial information that the company must provide to the employees or members of a team, in order for the company or team to be successful. This data is around the vision, mission and the type of organization they are trying to create.

There is also crucial information possessed by the employees. The employees have the perspectives and relevant data obtained by being closest to the customer. They must share or release this information to leadership, in order for leadership to recognize the impact of their programs and strategy. The release of this information from the employee may be through the informant.

There were numerous occasions in my career where I used an informant to improve the success of a strategy, program or my leadership effectiveness. In one situation I did not realize the tension that existed between my District Managers. One manager called me and asked if I noticed the discomfort in the room. Armed with the information from her call, I scheduled a team building session where they were able to play together and resolve their differences.

Additionally, there were another time when individuals were poisoning the environment I was trying to create. There was a time when I served as a healer to address a dysfunction within a team. I brought the team members and their manager into my office for a debriefing session. After the meeting was over, I received a telephone call from one of the participants. She stated that before their drive to their territory, she heard my voice in the back seat of the car. Apparently, one of the representatives had taped my entire session with the team. This informant made me aware of either the insidious nature of the team member for their lack of trust. I was able to satisfactorily handle the situation because of the courage of my informant.

Leaders have told me of situations where members of their team smiled to their face, but tried every effort to undermine their efforts, behind their backs.

The leader must create the environment where people feel comfortable enough to tell management what they think. The manager must create a culture which is an OASIS. The OASIS (Open And Share Information Safely) is an acronym describing a concept that I introduced in my book Unlock Your Leadership Greatness (available at and This environment will have a direct them on the number of formats available in the organization.

Informants are critical in the lives of leaders who are new to an organization or new to the role of leadership. It is comforting to have individuals who can share with you and serve as a barometer for your policies and procedures. They can also let you know how your personality comes across to the group.

Informants do not necessarily have to be spies who infiltrate an organization to gather secrets. They can be legitimate information merchants dedicated to helping leadership make better decisions.

Copyright © 2015 Orlando Ceaser

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