Businesses can acquire talented individuals from outside of the company, but there may be skilled individuals without proper training inside the existing workforce.
This is one of the most common questions that I get in my coaching consulting practice. How can I make sure my employees are really working from home? How do I know they aren’t messing with their children or doing laundry or cleaning out the refrigerator? My answer is usually something along the lines of ‘well, are they getting the necessary work done?’ While this is a good enough answer, the topic does merit more discussion.
At the root of this question is trust. Somehow, it seems that people we once trusted when they were down the hall, are now called into question when they’re at home. The same people! Some of this lack of trust is merited. During the scramble last Spring to somehow make work from home actually work, obligations were missed. When you combine this with general anxiety about the virus and the economy, technology difficulties, shifting office and home expectations, we can see why trust was eroded initially.
But why does it persist? Let’s dive deeper. In order to have trust in their colleagues, people need to believe two things.
First, they need to believe that others are competent, that they will deliver and that their delivery will be of high quality.
Second, they have to believe that their colleagues have good intentions, high integrity, and have the company’s best interests at heart.
For these beliefs to be present, people need to see what their colleagues are doing and why they are doing it. And they need to see that they will continue to do it. They need to see that they’re reliable. In a remote environment, there is less opportunity to see these things in action. This lack of evidence makes it difficult for trust to exist psychologically.
So, now that we know the issue, what do we do about it? Chances are working remotely is not going away anytime soon, so how do we learn to live with it?
I’m going to start with what not to do, and that is monitoring. There is a trend out there to try to increase monitoring, either through technology, or through continual check ins. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. Any leader who thinks they can track all of their employee’s behaviors is deluding themselves. Not to mention the fact that people will naturally spend their time figuring out ways to beat the monitoring system. And on top of that, monitoring creates high stress and anxiety for the employees. A recent study showed that 49% of employees are experiencing more anxiety when monitoring technologies are put into place. This is certainly not something that is productive. It’s not something we want in our culture.
Now that we know monitoring doesn’t work, what does work? The good news is that psychology provides us some tools.
First, become trustworthy yourself. Research has consistently shown that the more that you trust somebody else, the more that they will trust you in return. So, turn this around and make it work for you as a leader. Develop your employees’ trust in you so that you will have the confidence that they will reciprocate.
The next thing to do is communicate often as leaders. We usually communicate when things are changing. We’re pretty good at that. Something new comes up, we let people know. But with the pace of change coming so fast, you also have to make sure that you communicate about things that aren’t changing. When you do this it reminds people there is stability. Having this knowledge of stability goes a long way toward building trust.
Finally, recognize that everyone is different when it comes to trust. Some people tend to trust right away. They’re naturally trustworthy. Others need evidence.
The bottom line is that remote work isn’t going away anytime soon. And being able to build trusting relationships with your people will be crucial in the coming years. Put in the effort and you will gain more and more comfort with remote environment.
Kweisi Ausar is an Associate Professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He conducts research on workplace spirituality and other topics related to human dynamics in organizations. Dr. Ausar is focused on empowering individuals to transcend undesirable, dysfunctional, and harmful conditioning by cultivating spiritual competencies that are designed to increase mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.
Who is Kweisi Ausar?
Dr. Ausar’s story begins in Youngstown, Ohio. Kweisi suffered from childhood abandonment issues very early on and this led him down a path of striving to understand his identity and who he is on a spiritual level.
As a young man, Kweisi fell into a pattern of addiction to drugs which lasted for 17 years. During that time he was working in a corporate environment while going to school and it came to a point where he decided to transition into academia. All the transformations in Kweisi’s life have to do with deliberating cultivating spirituality. Now he conducts research on workplace spirituality and finding purpose and community in the work we do.
The realization that there are situations where there is no one to blame is how you come to a place where we see we are responsible for how we feel. There is always more to the story and it’s not about what happens to you, it’s about how you react.
Many people experience workplace incivility and marginalization. As leaders we have an obligation to attend the wellbeing of those that we lead. When a leader uses threats and fear, it depletes the wellbeing of the followers but it also has a psychological impact. Organizations have an obligation to their employees that the leaders are ethical and are leading people in the right spirit.
Negative energy in the workplace is destructive to the employees but it’s also destructive to the business itself.
Workplace Spirituality and Culture
Culture always starts at the top. The values of the leaders at the top should be flowing down into all the mechanisms of the organization.
Pseudo-transformational leaders can be especially toxic. Surveying the team is the first step to get the pulse and learn if there are issues that need to be solved. Senior leaders need to be tuned into how regional and divisional leaders are communicating. Qualitative data points like customer satisfaction are indicators that they can use to identify problem areas.
Kweisi believes in swift action when you discover a toxic leader. It’s important to give people a chance to change their behavior, but if the toxic behaviour is engrained throughout the region it may require immediate removal.
Integrity is important. If a leader was stealing money, how long would you allow them to do that? When you treat people poorly, there is a cost to that and the question becomes “how long are you going to wait to fix that?”
There are three factors to workplace spirituality. The first being meaningful and purposeful work, the second is a sense of community, and the third is alignment of individual and organizational values.
Pursuing careers aligned with our innate strengths and talents will give you intrinsic satisfaction. Most people don’t wake up with the intention of being average. When we are in a career that plays to our strengths we are far more likely to be successful.
Just because you like to do something, that doesn’t mean that you are an ideal fit for that work. It’s important to take assessments and understand what your innate strengths and talents really are.
Membership is another concept that is closely related to workplace spirituality. This means that everybody on the team is not only aligned with the values and goals of the organization, they also care about one another. When a leader hires someone they have a responsibility to help them be successful.
As you go through career transitions the skill set requires changes, and the leader is responsible for making sure you will succeed if they promote you to a new position.
It’s important to dig deeper than the vision statement to understand what a business really values. Most organizations say they value their people and community, but the true value is always the bottom line.
True leaders find satisfaction and joy in the success and growth of the people they lead.