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  • Joanne Rencher

The (Dis)trust Factor

At the start of the global pandemic, I wrote in earnest about the fact that many employers would be caught totally unprepared when having to make the shift to a remote workforce. Any employer who was still wrestling with work-from-home-policies understood just how unprepared they were. Mentally, that is.

The fact is that resistance to working from home was always more of a mental hurdle. Everyone shifted to virtual work environments. Heck, even old-school physicians figured out how to adjust their webcams during tele-health visits so we weren't looking up their noses. Poof, just like that, the largest virtual work experiment was born and was thriving from day one. So, what was at the core of the resistance?

In a word? Trust.

Many HR leaders can attest to the fact that, despite their best efforts, work-from-home policies often devolve into favoritism, with inconsistencies so glaring that even Stevie Wonder could see them.

Trust is too often at the core of these issues. Employers hire smart, successful talent and, conceptually, understand the importance of giving them the space to do their jobs. Yet, old habits, unhealthy cultures, and leadership gaps rule the day unless checked. There are 4 clear signs that an atmosphere of distrust has become a leading factor plaguing your work environment.

Policy Mania

If your policy manual has as many pages as a World Atlas book, you probably have too many policies. Obviously, policies provide the necessary guidance and guardrails needed for a functional and legally sound workplace. Think of it this way: the root of the word 'policy' forms the basis for other related words like 'police.' Focus on the areas in which you absolutely need to police, and those which would be better left to plain old common sense.

Instruction V. Goals

Goals provide a NorthStar focus to the work, spark ambition and healthy competition. Smart and successful employees benefit from goals. They are generally quite miserable, however, when they must react to detailed prescriptions of exactly how to reach these goals. Excessive instructions on the 'how' v. the 'what' are recipes for demotivating staff. Work-from-home policies which attempt to assert control over 'how' and 'where' work is achieved will guarantee the absence of innovation and inspiration at a time when your company needs both in large supply.

'No Input' Zones

One way to demonstrate trust is through providing information. Information is power. Power should be distributed if your business is to grow. Engaging employees in solutions to today's business problems is not only nice-to-do but critical. With the exception of highly confidential and sensitive matters, employees should be pulled as far into the zones of decision-making as possible. As long as it's clear who has the ultimate decision-making authority. Which leads me to the final sign of distrust...

Everyone has the 'D'

If your company has set up approval processes for small, medium and large-sized decisions that resemble the outlines to a jigsaw puzzle, it usually means that everyone is involved, and very few are trusted. Decision-making authority is born from clarity and trust in those appointed to make the decisions. When you have neither, chaos abounds and people will focus more on covering backsides than covering the business.

The largest virtual work experiment has proven that it works. Now, businesses must ensure that trust is instilled in every corner of the workplace - virtual or otherwise.

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