Tuesday, December 12, 2020

Is Anyone at Work Trustworthy Today?

Here’s a survey finding that seems to sum up much of the distrust that is everywhere in business today:
It speaks volumes about levels of trust within organisations that as far as most of us who have problems at work are concerned, our boss is one of the last persons we would think of turning to for advice. An on-line survey of more than 3,000 employees, mostly middle to senior-level managers, by CO2 Partners, a Minnesota-based leadership development firm, has found that only one in 10 (11 per cent) would turn to their immediate boss for workplace advice. In contrast, a quarter of would turn to a colleague within their organisation for help and around one in six to another senior person at work (15 per cent), a friend outside work (14 per cent) or a mentor or coach (13 per cent).
What strikes me is how low all of these numbers are. Only one even gets above 20% (a quarter would ask a colleague). Is anyone at work trustworthy? Or is no one willing to ask for advice from anybody else?

I suspect that what this survey shows is less about how untrustworthy bosses are, and more about a corporate culture where asking anyone else for help and advice is seen as a sign of weakness and vulnerability. Part of today’s arrogance among Hamburger Managers is the fiction that they know everything they need to know, can do everything they need to do, and need nothing from anyone else.

With that kind of mindset, asking for advice is a dangerous game. It marks you out as a loser: someone who accepts that they aren’t perfect. A person who knows what they do not know and is willing to take the time and trouble to find out. The fact that it may well save you from making some horrendous mistakes counts for little.

Hamburger Managers are as lacking in many areas of necessary knowledge as anyone else—probably more so, since admitting your ignorance is the first step in any form of learning. But when the slightest weakness may be taken as an excuse for passing you over in the cutthroat world of corporate competition we have invented, hiding your vulnerability behind a façade of bravado and “spin” is the norm.

Nobody is trustworthy who would stoop to take advantage of another person’s genuine request for help or advice to put them down. And that applies whatever their position in the organization.

You do this, you’re a jerk. And you can trust me on that.

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Charles H. Green said...

True, true, all the comments you make about that survey are true. The survey has another telling point; that no matter how little employees are likely to ask their boss for help, they are even less likely to ask their spouse.

While I think, as you say, all the numbers are low, that last fact puts another spin on it for me. It isn't just that bosses are viewed as untrustworthy, or that employees are afraid to be seen as incapable in today's tough environment.

It also speaks poorly about the self-management skills of today's work force. My friend Phil McGee, a CEO of a small company, is fond of saying that all management problems boil down to a tendency to blame and an unwillingness to confront.

All of us are as guilty of this as employees as we are as bosses. What do we do when things aren't right? Blame someone. And for too many of us (or, for all of us too often), the false comfort we get from blaming someone else would only be lessened by actually having to confront the truth.

It's less about lacking work skills than it is about being afraid to confront our own fears of being rejected or disrespected.

My little theory is that of all people, our spouses know us the best. And if our motivation is blame and denial, then the last people we are going to seek out are those who can best call us on our bogus blame-throwing.

Low trust? You bet, and plenty to go around. But it doesn't all flow down from the boss. Excessive Dilbert cartoons, smart-aleck sayings on the wall, these are tell-tale signs of a culture of blame and victimhood, as evident downstream as upstream in an organization.

Trust requires a willingness to confront the truth, and to take responsibility. When either is missing--and either side can drive it--you get mistrust.

8:04 PM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Charles, what a great comment! Thank you so much. It stopped me in my tracks and gave me a new window on our world, which is far more than I deserve.

I'm sure that you are right that why we love victimhood so much is that it's such a wonderful refuge from responsibility. Instead of having to confront our own mistakes and inadequacies — and maybe learn to do something to lessen them — we can blame someone else and absolve ourselves from further effort.

If we trusted others, we might have to admit that they did a pretty good job, and some of the responsibility for any mess pointed right back to us. So long as we hang on to the idea that they're generally useless, shifty people, who rarely do anything without being forced, we can cling to the assumption everything bad is bound to be their fault.

Pretty neat trick, eh? Even if it is totally bogus and dishonest.

Keep reading, my friend.

9:53 PM  

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