5 Unethical Phrases: Low Trust
January 5, 2011 Leave a comment
Treating People With Respect Builds Trust
How we treat people is an important part of ethical leadership. We know that when leaders treat people with respect, trust is built within the organization. Treating people with respect includes listening to their ideas and working together to accomplish the mission of the organization.
5 Unethical Phrases That Signal a Low-Trust Culture
These 5 phrases signal that the speaker may not be treating other people in the company respectfully and may not be considering the ideas and concerns of others when making decisions. They indicate a culture where communication is not handled in a way that builds trust:
1. “I don’t care what the Marketing Department says. We’re going to do this anyway.”
2. “I think Erik is cruising into retirement. He seems lazy these days.”
3. “You missed the targets by a mile. You’ll all be fired if you can’t get the job done.”
4. “What is the CEO going to cook up this time? I dread his business trips. He brings back ideas, and we all have to jump on the “newest” thing he’s excited about.”
5. “Stop socializing and get back to work!”
How does each example indicate a low-trust culture?
Number 1 ignores the importance of seeking out and carefully listening to input from other areas when working on projects that cross departmental lines. Competition between departments is distracting and leads to a low-trust culture. Departments should work as parts of the same team to ensure the success of the organization.
Number 2 erodes trust by speaking negatively about someone when that person is not present. Labeling someone as “lazy” is disrespectful and judgemental and ignores many possible issues and problems that may be impacting an employee’s performance. In a high-trust company, leaders are in close touch with employees about their performance and it’s not necessary to guess about what’s causing an employee to be less productive.
Number 3 ignores the fact that there are many systemic reasons why a team may not meet performance targets. In fact, poor leadership is one of the main ones! In a high-trust culture, leaders are spending time supporting the performance needed to meet goals, and not threatening employees with consequences. Threatening implies that the leader has no part in the failure of the team and is completely separate from the team. In fact, the leader is a key part of the team and shares in the success or failure of the group.
Number 4 assumes that the latest things that the CEO wants to carry out are not going to be improvements. It assumes that the CEO is the one who is responsible for keeping the company current and seeking new ideas. In a high-trust culture, leaders at all levels are looking for new ideas and sharing them. And when they are suggested, each one is considered carefully. There are cases where a leader is suggesting improvements faster than the organization can implement them, which leads to frustration and lower productivity. In this case, it’s best to find a tactful way to let the leader know rather than complaining to others who can’t change the behavior. Talking negatively about someone is never going to change the performance, and it erodes trust. Rule of thumb: If it’s not something you would talk directly to the person about, don’t talk to anyone else about it either.
Number 5 ignores the very real context of today’s connected workplace. Connecting with others is how people get work done. It makes work more satisfying and more productive. It builds trust and loyalty. If people are meeting goals and performance standards, they are probably doing it while staying connected to their colleagues. In a high-trust environment with good leadership, leaders are also staying connected by walking around and interacting with employees, and by using blogs, podcasts and other means of regular communication beyond the standard corporate internal memos.
Linda Fisher Thornton is Owner of Leading in Context LLC, providing Tools for Ethical Leadership in a Complex Interconnected Workplace. She teaches “Strategic Thinking for Leaders” and “Leadership, Conflict Management and Group Dynamics” as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Leadership for the University of Richmond School of Continuing Studies.
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