What can you do about a culture of Mistrust…

2011/07/01

Trust is a very personal thing. Many people can believe trust should between two people and should not be confused as a culture to be followed or propagated. But in many organizations, dysfunctions and interpersonal issues are mostly (from my personal experiences) offshoot’s of an underlying thread of mistrust. Most people are not willing to see anything beyond the layer of behavior and talk at lengths about what’s wrong and more importantly, with whom. Of course an organization is only a place we spend time in to fulfill a lot of our personal aspirations, but we spend considerable amount of time there. And if it bleeds of mistrust, we just can’t get up in the morning looking forward for a day’s work, even if it means just a check list item.

Some common symptoms of organizations bleeding in a culture of mistrust could include:

  • No meaningful confrontation happens, every dialogue happens through the immediate supervisor.
  • Only tasks are delegated, not responsibilities.
  • Issues are never isolated from people. Resolving issues always means pulling up people connected to it.
  • Data is not an important aspect in operations.
  • Data provided for anything is not validated, but contended.
  • Being politically right is more important than being right.
  • Personal interests always score over team/organizational goals, at any point of time.
  • People are more interested in saving the ass, rather than resolving issues.

The list can go on, but these are some of the major symptoms I have noticed from my experience. Requesting you to add your thoughts too in case I missed any.

And sometimes, we just accept this as reality and wait for the first opportunity to move on. Though that’s not wrong, I would say we can first try a few things to see if there is something we can do to make things better for us, and honestly for people around us before taking that step. And if we work in the capacity of managers, I guess it is our responsibility to try our best to make things better for our team and other teams as well.

Resort to meaningful dialogue – Talk directly to people to whom we have question. Rather than going to the manager, its better we talk to the people directly. It might work, or might not work, but it’s worth the try. This involves a lot of courage, but we should not forget it involves some consideration as well. Being honest is not an excuse for not treating people with respect.

Make Data the primary performance parameter N. R. Narayana Murthy once famously said, “In god we believe, everyone else brings data to the table”. This should not mean we must remove the human aspect out of the equation. Alarming data points can be used as a basis to understand issues, derive action items and then arrive at people responsible for them. In many cases, issues/deviation is more a factor of the process.

Identify process issues before people issues – Again this does not mean we should neglect people issues – which is very common – but does the process itself allow for eccentricities? You cannot expect a project to be profitable if it goes through 10 review cycles by different people, and expect the primary contributor to have a keen eye for detail too. You will end up overshooting the budget, and at the end of the day, the primary contributor will not be interested in doing things the first time right, given people are anyway going to have “new ideas” over every coffee they have.

Confront mistrust with honesty – M.K. Gandhi said the worst punishment you can hand over to an untrustworthy person is treating him/her with honestly. Nothing can be farther from truth. Always be honest and forthright with people, but don’t expect that favor to be returned.

Isolate issues from people – Whenever we need to resolve issues, its better we talk about the issue rather than the person responsible for it. Again, this is not to say people don’t screw up, but at least will help in building a culture of trust. Start with the issue, and then move to the people responsible for it.

Place facts over feelings – Feelings are generally an offshoot of behaviors. People “feel” something about others based on what he/she has “done” in the past. Though this is not something we should just disregard, it will help if we ask for facts. Feelings can be subjective, facts just cannot.

Trust people conditionally, and treat them respectfully – This is from one of my favorite authors – Stephen Covey. Trusting should not mean we blindly trust whatever people say. It’s better to also place accountability to what is said. We should specifically ask for instances/data when people generally provide malicious information about others. And this does not mean we should undervalue the importance of respect just because we have evidence of deviations. By treating people with respect and trusting them conditionally, we send out a very important message – I’m prepared to deal with issues and people who deviate from specified norms that you bring up, but that does not mean I will blindly trust you into pulling people up for “allegations”.

All the above points are a reflection of what can be done for a team/organization that is at the lowest level of trust quotient. Once the trust factor is established, we can move to more mature management/leadership principles like collaboration etc. What do you think?

Advertisements

How can you motivate your manager

2010/02/11

We come across numerous articles on how to motivate team members and most of them typically revolve around some of the points listed below:

  • Working with a responsive boss
  • High levels of trust displayed by the direct supervisor
  • Having a proper reward systems in place
  • Interesting and challenging responsibilities
  • Working in a good work environment
  • Being paid on par with the other players in the industry
  • Etc…

A lot of people management training also focuses on many key parameters including some listed above. But at the other side of the spectrum, the manager is a human being too, who needs motivation to perform better and help the team perform better. I guess we all pretty much agree that any human relationship must be a mutually beneficial and conductive engagement, and in my opinion, a supervisor-subordinate relationship is (and should be) no different. As much as it is the responsibility of the manager to motivate team members, there are a few things we can also do to motivate our managers. These are not impossible things to do, but doing these would only keep us in the good books of the manager – without compromising our values that is.

Being a can-do team member – Agreed, it is the responsibility of manager to build a can-do team, but certain times, people are so judgmental that even honest intentions are taken otherwise. If we are approached by our manager for some “challenging assignment”, please understand that he/she has picked us among the lot because we have shown behavioral traits to overcome challenges. There is no reason to cringe additional responsibility, rather we can be proud of the fact that we are the chosen one. Its better to discuss and work around challenges, than being defensive. Honestly, do you believe your manager would respond to you positively if you don’t?

Trusting your manager – Like it or not, believe it or not, your manager has more challenges than you can imagine. Expecting our manager to disclose all information before starting off anything is not feasible. Yes, trust is a mutual thing, but once we see traits of trust in our manager, is it not our responsibility to respond appropriately? Do you expect the manager to unconditionally trust you without reciprocation?

Understanding the reward system and working with it – It is generally not uncommon to crib about the reward system when we see a peer being rewarded and not us. If there is a proper reward system in place, it is better to understand the parameters and work towards them. If we can’t figure it, just ASK!!! It is not right to brand a system/decision biased without understanding it properly.

Taking Initiatives – Responsibility is generally given to people who display traits of handling the the unknown. The best to way to do it is by taking initiatives – I mean “initiating” things on our own and seeing it to completion. Just completing the assigned responsibilities is not the ticket to promotions or bigger things – it just ensures our paycheck.

Not being the negative force of the team – We all want to work in a good, professional work environment. But isn’t the environment is made of & by people who are part of it? What have we done to make the environment better for our part? At least, what have we done to ensure we don’t make it worser? Being a cribber, pretender, back stabber, the greedy goon, the office bully are the best ways to ensure we get noticed for all the wrong reasons. Work life balance is one of the most discussed topics these days, but sometimes I get the feeling that having a good work life balance is all about having the ability to dump work to attend to personal things – please correct me if I’m wrong.

Not expecting unrealistic and undeserved salary hikes – We all need money to survive, but honestly, is that the only reason we work for? If yes, be rest assured that we cannot find peace even if we work for a peace mission. If no, ponder over (and give feedback) on the points suggested above.

This is just a suggestive list and I’m hoping for comments from everyone for a better understanding. And if you feel you perfectly fit the bill and still not getting your due, then the best advice you can get is to dump your current job and move on.

Note: I have a manager too!!


%d bloggers like this: