I recently read the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling – I know I’m a decade late. One of my least favorite characters was Dolores Umbridge, who appeared in The Order of the Phoenix. The reason I hated her so much was because of her lack of trust for anyone (for my fellow book nerds, you can throw Fudge into that category as well). Despite previous faithfulness and the gained trust from others, she trusted nobody (not even Snape, who had “helped” her previously), which created a hostile environment in the castle until she was forcibly removed.
That’s fiction, but how true it is in the real world. Once I read about Umbridge in the series, I immediately tied her to one of my previous bosses. They trusted no one, personally monitored people’s computers, issued decrees (get it? Educational Decrees? No…?) that disallowed certain personal freedoms in the workplace, and overall destroyed the environment of trust in the organization. This was done in the name of results (the parallel is too real for me), but there was no change in results, just morale. The lack of trust, just as it did in Hogwarts castle, drastically lowered the morale, which in turn destroyed productivity (more in my blog about Fear).
I know this post seems rather fun and a little childish, but the truth of it remains: “Trust is the glue of life.” If we cannot trust our leaders and our leaders cannot trust us, then the organization will fall apart. In my real world example, trust left the department when the leader of the department decided to treat a room of adults as children who needed constant monitoring.
There’s another side to the story, however. Trust is important, but it must be built. It only makes sense that a new employee would be micromanaged to some extent as they learned the job and the culture of the workplace. As a new employee learns the ropes and earns trust, they should be given more freedom according to their comfort level, which should be compared to the leader’s comfort level for them. The way this gets unhealthy is when you try to micromanage a professional or give complete freedom to a novice. In short, it’s unhealthy to have too much trust in a novice, but it is also unhealthy to not have enough trust of a professional.
I encourage you to build trust up in your organization, this will help remove fear and squash the frustration of you and those you lead.