Navigating Private Versus Public Orientations to Communication in the Workplace

Different approaches to private versus public hold significant sway in shaping worker experiences and organisational dynamics.
A scarlet-painted building with a big private sign on the front

By Chally Kacelnik

Different approaches to private versus public hold significant sway in shaping worker experiences and organisational dynamics. As a management consultant, I often find myself delving into discussions surrounding these preferences and their impact on workplace interactions. It’s evident that navigating these elements requires a delicate balance between respecting individual boundaries and fostering a culture of open communication and recognition.

One of the most common scenarios I encounter relates to feedback and praise, as well as the format of meetings. While some workers thrive on public praise and acknowledgment in group settings, others prefer a more private approach. Similarly, some workers may prefer group meetings for discussions and decision-making, while others may feel more comfortable in one-on-one settings. Understanding the reasons for these preferences is crucial for effective leadership and worker engagement.

It might be an issue of an individual’s shyness, or they might be trying to avoid attention due to negative interpersonal dynamics in the team. It’s well worth unpicking. Some simply prefer to receive feedback in a more intimate setting where they can openly discuss their achievements and areas for growth without feeling scrutinised by their peers. Others may simply value the personal connection and sincerity that comes with one-on-one interactions, viewing it as a more meaningful form of recognition.

On the other hand, public praise can also have its merits. When done appropriately, it not only celebrates individual accomplishments but also fosters a sense of camaraderie and mutual appreciation within the team. Public recognition can serve as a powerful motivator, inspiring others to strive for excellence and reinforcing a culture of appreciation and collaboration.

Similarly, the format of meetings can greatly impact worker engagement and productivity. Group meetings provide opportunities for brainstorming, collaboration, and team-building, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose. However, some workers may feel overshadowed or hesitant to voice their opinions in larger group settings, preferring the focus of one-on-one meetings where they can express themselves more freely. You might have to intervene in the moment or coach individuals to gain the benefits of everyone’s contributions.

Ultimately, it’s sensible to adopt a flexible approach to addressing privacy preferences and communication styles in the workplace. This means providing workers with options for how they prefer to receive feedback, praise, and participate in meetings, whether it be privately or publicly, in group settings or one-on-one. It also means making reasonable decisions when you need to rather than always ceding to individual preferences – and being able to explain these clearly.

Moreover, fostering open communication and understanding among team members is essential for creating a supportive environment where individuals feel empowered to express their preferences without fear of judgment. Leaders play a pivotal role in setting the tone for such discussions and leading by example in respecting and accommodating diverse approaches.

A real barometer of how well you’re doing with these sensibilities is the extent to which workers can trust in matters of confidentiality in worker records. Not only having (social and technical) systems that protect privacy, but being seen to have these, is paramount in fostering trust and respect within the workplace. Workers entrust sensitive personal information to their organisations, expecting it to be handled with the utmost care and discretion. Ensuring confidentiality not only protects workers’ privacy rights but also contributes to a positive organisational culture built on integrity and professionalism.

Ultimately, striking a balance between individual privacy preferences, communication styles, and organisational culture requires a nuanced approach that prioritises empathy, flexibility, and open communication. By recognising and respecting the diverse needs and preferences of workers, organisations can cultivate a workplace environment that fosters mutual respect, collaboration, and personal growth.

At LKS Quaero, we support organisations with effective management of the people side of work. For more information, visit us at or follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook.