I was once asked to work with a business which, outwardly, seemed to be doing well. For some reason I forget, the board wanted me to interview each member of the business—either individually or in small groups. As a result if that, it was possible to draw up a picture of how the board members were viewed by the rest of the business.
One finding was very prominent: the staff believed that the directors didn’t trust them.
To say that the board were surprised by this is an understatement. It was almost as if the sheer concept was completely beyond their brains to comprehend. And I’m sure this response was entirely genuine.
As it happened, I was talking to one of the directors a session or two later. The survey had shown that the staff were pretty hacked off by the extent to which he micro-managed them. They didn’t like it and it achieved noting. In fact, it was likely that, if he let go of his need to micromanage them, the staff would have done a better job because they would be more motivated.
So, I asked him why he did it. “Because I don’t trust them” was his immediate reply. He then spent twenty trying to deny he had said that. Unfortunately we were not the only people in the room.
Why would anyone micromanage their team if they thought the team didn’t need it? And why would the boss have to look over their work every five minutes?
Because he/she didn’t believe they would do it properly/on time unless he/she did scrutinise them to this degree.
This is just lack of trust.
Interestingly, although this director wouldn’t let me go very far with this, we did get as far as my pointing out that it was unlikely every person who worked for him was actually untrustworthy (not least because he had recruited them). And people who have a blanket mistrust of other people, without cause, actually don’t trust themselves.
The mistrust of oneself gets projected, unconsciously, onto others.
At this point, the director smiled in a way that told me the penny had dropped. But he then terminated the conversation.