The price of suspicion. The reward of trust
“If you can’t let your employees work from home out of fear they’ll slack off without your supervision, you’re a babysitter, not a manager.” (Jason Fried)
When we talk about remote work, we’re talking about a vote of confidence that the old mode of working from a fixed office doesn’t take into account: the trust that your employees are responsible adults who know what they’re doing and who will excel even if you don’t see them. But when we talk about providing such trust, we must first understand how we have come to build this huge amount of suspicion that is currently eroding not only the employee-manager work relationship, but also the company’s performance results.
We can easily reach the impasse of employee-employer distrust following the classic path of control-based organizations: we establish rigid hierarchies, inflexible policies, we focus on risk prevention at the expense of innovation and on financial targets at the expense of the quality of human interactions within the company. A poor recruitment process also leads to distrust-ridden work environments, as does encouraging competitiveness between employees in a way that exacerbates self-importance and individualism.
However, this mentality is painless to abandon if we look at what Stephen M. R. Covey, author of “The Speed of Trust”, observed: “When trust goes down (in a relationship, on a team, in an organization, or with a partner or customer), speed goes down and cost goes up. The inverse is equally true: When trust goes up, cost goes down, and speed goes up.”
Give yourself a moment of reflection and think of a collaborator you highly trust! How are you behaving towards him? Openly, relaxed, encouraging. You listen to his opinions and suggestions with interest. You give him the best of you and support his progress. What do you get in return? His trust and reciprocity: performance, loyalty, honesty. Favorable results naturally occur.
Now think about how you feel and behave around someone you don’t trust! Defensive, secretive, distant, cold, maybe indifferent. You have doubts about that man’s character, sincerity or competences. Automatically, you’re looking to limit and control your interactions with him. A sense of rigidity and suspicion is obvious between the two of you. In this case too you get reciprocity in return.
Sometimes such doubts are justified. For an organization, it would also be a wake-up call that something is missing in the recruitment process. During interviews, do you evaluate only technical skills or do you manage to subtly read the man in front of you, measure his spirit of responsibility, interpersonal qualities and good intentions? Nevertheless, as much as we try to convince ourselves that we should not have too much faith in people and that strict supervision is the key to business performance, the truth is that a suspicious attitude is just the surest path to sabotaging performance.
Personally, I had the opportunity to learn this from direct experience. At some point in my 12 years of corporate background I had to work with a controlling colleague. This way I understood how it felt like to have someone nearby who always expects you to make errors. The result? Although I was good at my job, somehow around that person I managed to make mistakes more often than when I was working by myself. We change other people’s responses based on our expectations of them and we generally do it unconsciously. Also, emotions are contagious, and trust is primarily an emotion. So is its opposite. Do you choose to project a sense of trust or one of suspicion in your employees and colleagues?
Now give yourself another moment of reflection and think about how someone from work signals his trust in you! On a professional level, he involves you in making decisions. He gives you access from the beginning to all the information you need in order to thoroughly understand the projects you are involved in. He respects your autonomy, allows you to choose your own path towards the defined goals, gives you options and freedom. He listens to your suggestions and encourages your innovative spirit. On a human level, you feel his sincerity. He demonstrates goodwill and empathy. And he awakens reciprocity in you.
Do you want to be able to trust your employees? First, start by making positive assumptions about people! Instead of seeking to control them, give them more flexibility! Instead of tying them up like children, treat them like grown-ups! Instead of inducing fear into them, stimulate their passion an give them challenging responsibilities! Involve everyone in the organizational changes and you will be rewarded with excellence.
Still wondering if remote work is a good idea for your team? Try starting with a question you’ve definitely answered by now: how do you feel when your own superiors or clients trust that you can work from anywhere and how do you act in return?