Inverse Transparency and the Quest for Empowerment Through the Design of Digital Workplace Technologies

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Digital workplace technologies lead to increasing levels of transparency. This, however, raises tensions: On the one hand, transparency facilitates employee empowerment, and on the other hand, transparency drives employee surveillance and privacy concerns. Furthermore, transparency has traditionally been one-sided, with control vested in managers, leading to a panoptical scenario. The contemporary workforce demands empowerment and bidirectional, inverse transparency which challenges the assumptions of agency theory. These tensions are pertinent challenges that have become even more salient today. Following a design science research process, we examine how a technical solution could be designed to mitigate these tensions and overcome the panopticon. Drawing on the knowledge base of stewardship theory and the concept of inverse transparency, we derive design requirements (DRs), design principles (DPs), and design features (DFs) for an artifact that instantiates inverse transparency and drives the movement to stewardship behavior. We develop three theoretical conjectures on the artifact’s implications on the kernel theory and conclude by advancing a design theory on inverse transparency that guides the design of digital workplace technologies. Lastly, our study illuminates the emerging understanding of transparency-related challenges in the contemporary workforce and further contributes to the discourse with theoretical and design knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Systems
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 10 February 2024.


  • (Inverse) transparency
  • Digital workplace technologies
  • Stewardship theory
  • Design science research

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