IBJOpinion

SLAUGHTER: Give employees chance to break your trust

Robby Slaughter
December 4, 2010
Keywords
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Viewpoint columnist Robby SlaughterAn old saying insists that character is what you do when no one is watching. If you want the best team with the strongest commitment to ethical behavior, you must ensure they have every opportunity to lie, steal and cheat.

This strategy sounds radical and counterintuitive. Shouldn’t we closely monitor employee activity? Shouldn’t we keep interior doors locked, ration valuable resources, bolt down furniture and equipment, and install security cameras? These are certainly prudent actions to reduce the threat of abuse and criminal activity. However, most people—and furthermore, most employees—are honest, law-abiding citizens. Why do we build work environments that practically boast about how little we trust our workers?

Much of the rationale is surely a calculated risk. Most people don’t need strict policies and mechanisms to behave ethically, but the financial outlay of a security program is significantly less than a lawsuit or catastrophic loss. This small investment, however, may have a hidden cost to employee morale and productivity. As best-selling author and corporate visionary Ricardo Semler notes, “I’ll bet that, on average, 2 percent or 3 percent of any work force will take advantage of an employer’s trust. But is that a valid reason to subject 97 percent to a daily ritual of humiliation?”

At his own wildly successful factories, Semler replaced security checkpoints and random searches with a sign that read, “Please make sure as you leave that you are not inadvertently taking anything that does not belong to you.” At first, employees wanted the old system back so they could show they were honest. Eventually, they realized the company had changed its position: Now everyone was assumed innocent until proven guilty.

Through the steady accretion of bureaucracy, we fail to establish large organizations with the premise that most people have a moral conscience. Even a small step in the direction of trust seems unimaginable. Consider the philosophy of one locally owned restaurant: If you whip out a credit card, a staff member will proudly explain the business accepts only “cash or IOUs.” Choose the latter and you’ll receive a hand-scrawled note. The theory is that anyone you’d want as a repeat customer will come again to settle up while people who would dodge their bill will never return.

Likewise, we don’t worry about employees making a few brief personal calls to loved ones from the phone on their desk. So why do we ask IT departments to block access to online banking, private e-mail accounts or e-commerce sites? We don’t tell hourly employees to clock out during a 10-minute rest-room break, so why do we measure the number of minutes they are away for a half-hour lunch? Isn’t it more important to get things done than to watch the clock?

Due to practical and legal restrictions, workplaces must have some policies and some monitoring. Yet at the same time, we can all acknowledge that responsible people thrive in an environment of freedom. Fewer restrictions and less bureaucracy create greater potential for innovation. Brilliance often requires knowing the rules and knowingly setting them aside. Most important, responsible people will work because they are driven by the satisfaction of progress and discovery.

Likewise, irresponsible people quickly stand out in a culture that emphasizes freedom. They will exploit any cookie jar left unguarded. They will be lazy and complacent. If they are rarely monitored, their work will barely advance. Autonomy is a kind of disinfectant that almost instantly highlights those who would violate your trust.

The best teams succeed despite all the restrictions and paranoia that limit their activities. Consider doing something drastic: Trust your employees. You may uncover a few bad seeds, but those worth keeping will take root and flourish in the open sun.•

__________

Slaughter is a principal with Slaughter Development, an Indianapolis business-process and workflow-consulting company and the author of “Failure: The Secret to Success.”

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Agreed
    Agree with you that our default, in most situations, should be a much higher level of trust. Whatever happened to the leadership idea that people rise to your expectations of them? Perhaps this reveals the unfortunate expectations most companies/businesses have of employees.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Good Day I am Mr (Victoria Wright) from United state of America, i stayed in NEW YORK, and i have a broke up business, until i found this company email who help me to gain a loan for business,, and now i want to used this short medium to congratulate the below company for the fast and safe money they loan to me without any form of collateral, i loan 500,000USD from the company to save my business and lots more, i saw their mail on the internet, everyone always give testimony for what they did, so i quickly contacted them and they all did everything for me without stress and my money was sent to my account just 3 days later, i was surprise and i feel so glad, now i have a standard business control agent who help me, now i will advice those who need urgent loan to contact him at the bellow email:zenithfirm12@gmail.com

  2. NOTICE:This is to inform the general public that Vampires are real. My name is James Franklyn.,am an agent of vampire,am here to introduce our new world trend to you,a world of vampire where life get easier,we have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich,you will be assured long life and prosperity,you shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness,stronger and also very fast,you will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk.In case you are wildly oppressed by some unscrupulous persons we can still help you fight them.Your protection is assured immediately you join.Just contact the bellow email if you are interested we are here to attend to you anytime you want us. Contact the bellow email for more details. Email:vampirescreed@hotmail.com Sincerely: James Franklyn.

  3. Bravo! Someone else that is willing to speak the truth! Bravo!_____NBCSN is available in almost 2 MILLION more homes than just a few years ago, but Indycar STILL gets less total viewers than it did just a few years ago when NBC took over Versus. Attendance and ratings cratered with the end of season races (just when the title battle got "interesting" HAH!__________And now...new race in Basilia, where Miles celebrated the "rich history" of Indycar racing there. Rich history? What, 7 events in the 100 years of AOW? Yep, some history. Well, at least its an oval. It's not??? Are you kidding me??? Gosh darn road racin furriners.

  4. PURITY RAY LOAN OFFER........ Have you been denied by your banks,or are you in need of of an urgent loan to pay of your bills we are capable of giving loans @ cheaper rate to interested individuals, student, companies and members of the public in need of finance to settle bills, we do offer considerable loans which you can count on. For more information on our various types of loan,then you will have to contact PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM, to help you achieve your desire LOAN APPLICATION FORM TO BE FILLED BORROWERS INFORMATION * Full name:………………………. * SEX * ……………………………. * Country………………………….. * State:……………………………. * Land:…………………………….. * Occupation:…………………….. * phone number:…………………. * Telephone: ………………………….. * Age:………………………………. * Amount needed as loan:……… * Loan Duration:………………….. * Propose of Loan:……………….. * Annual revenue:………………… * Monthly Income:……………….. * Guarantee:………………………. * Payment: monthly or annually Email.....purityrayloanfirm@gmail.com Thank you and God bless Mr Purity Ray PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM we tend to serve you better

  5. Problem: most of the people responding to this article don't know about this service AT ALL! Why? Lack of awareness. This isn't IndyGo. This is CIRTA: might as well be the mattress company because they are asleep at the wheel - something like 3 directors over the last year? Playing with federal grant money is great! This "region" wants commuter rail service, has spent MILLIONS on Transportation studies yet can't even support a commuter bus line? This is largely for suburban riders to get to downtown - not for "service people to work in our hotels and restaurants" ! Get your head out of your backside!! These are professionals, students etc. that don't want to fight traffic, save some money on parking, gas, stress.... if CIRTA would put their federal money into widely promoting the sevive to Greenwood, Fishers & Carmel instead of finding directors and studies - this would be a successful service. Our family uses(d) it daily for the last several years - but the recent uncertainty & now unreliability due to cuts from Carmel has been a problem. Now, costs us an additional $350/month for gas & parking ( $4200/year) plus vehicle wear, service, environmental impact ... YES - this REGION needs this this type of service in order to keep growing and getting the people it needs to fill skilled positions in downtown Indianapolis. Think outside of your own car !!!

ADVERTISEMENT