Trust and authenticity – universal values Are they needed in today’s business world? Are those values a paradigm in the work environment? Are we able to talk about them in our workplace? If yes, in what circumstances? Do we only talk about them when they are missing?
Let’s start with trust. Employers, superiors or leaders all want to be able to trust an employee. The more they trust, the fewer control measures they use. And it is not only about exercising control but about creating an atmosphere of trust. I trust you, so I give you freedom. I trust you, so I believe you will manage. I trust you, so I do not limit you. Having trust in someone is like a motivation boost. So why do we so rarely talk about trust in the work environment regardless of industry? Perhaps it seems unprofessional to us? Too soft, intangible, unspecific, unmeasurable? In the world of business we base decisions on indicators, KPIs, figures. Trust remains within the sphere of internal conviction, feeling.
Recently a team leader told us that one of his employees did not work effectively, hours were wasted and the work was not done. Actually it was difficult to say what he spends his working hours on. In the conversation, the employee admitted that for some time he had been attending to personal matters during working hours. There was a lack of trust, and at the same time it raised the question of how to control such an employee? Since he was dishonest, perhaps he is capable of other dishonesty. From now on he will better cover up his inefficient working hours. Will exercising control improve trust between them? Or is something more needed? Why do we talk about trust only when it is missing? Maybe the employee should have been told at the beginning of the cooperation: “I trust you; you are responsible, I count on you.” After all, the leader trusted the employee, and did not control him just because he trusted him. Maybe it was enough to say it. Is a message of trust more motivating than knowing that one is being controlled? Wouldn’t an employee cheat if he knew the leader trusted him? We do not know that but it is certainly worth a try.
I encourage leaders to treat their team members as mature, responsible and honest people.
The more forms of controls we introduce, the more we limit the sense of responsibility. Only a free person can feel responsible for their work. Unfortunately, many leaders tend to forget it.
Trust works both ways. In a team it also manifests itself in the leader-employee relationship. If the leader succeeds to create an atmosphere of mutual trust, the team will follow the leader. If you want to attract people, impact them, you need to gain their trust.
However, in many organisations, the ‘feudal’ model of management is still in place, where the manager’s opinion is not subject to discussion and reflection, and people are expected to carry out top-down mandated tasks without question. Such model restricts involvement and motivation and does not leave room for authenticity.
Authenticity is a manifestation of sincerity, thinking, creativity and diversity. It is something we all need regardless of our role in the organisation.
It may happen that we choose not to work with someone only because they seem unauthentic to us. The objective arguments are for ‘yes’, while the heart tells us ‘no’. The same is true when we sense that the interlocutor is telling us what we want to hear. We feel that they want to buy us, that it is a manipulation. And manipulation does not go hand in hand with trust. That is, it is also not conducive to a good team atmosphere. How do we get people to be authentic and not to play roles, not to pretend to be different than they really are and to be genuine?
It is not simple and it is not always within the leader’s control, but they can always try to create an atmosphere of authenticity. And then it makes sense to start with yourself. If I want my people to work honestly, to be dedicated, to tell the truth, even if it is not nice, then I have to be like that myself. If I am tired, there is something going on in my life that impacts my concentration and efficiency, and I pretend in front of people that everything is OK, I am thereby showing that there is no room for weakness in my team. I am sending out a signal with this behaviour that problems are not talked about in my team. And yet we all have better and worse days. We may pretend that we are in great shape every day, but in doing so we do not give space for weakness and we do not allow for authenticity.
Why do we need authenticity at work?
Authenticity is another way of saying ‘truth’. And truth is a universal value. With that I do not think we can argue. No one regardless of their role in the organisation wants to be manipulated, no one wants to hear falsehoods.
Why do we have a problem with authenticity? The fundamental problem arises when we communicate something we do not believe in ourselves. Leaders cannot expect people to believe in ideas that they themselves does not believe in. Such falsehood is palpable and has far-reaching effects. If I am not authentic, I do not inspire trust. And this is where we return to the beginning. Or to the core value of successful collaboration.
So what should a leader do, who himself has dilemmas, moments of doubt and at the same time has to motivate people? I suggest sincerity and authenticity. Let’s imagine a message like this: “I know it’s almost impossible to do, I know it is difficult, I don’t know if it’s possible myself but that’s the goal we have. Let’s try. Let’s do everything we can to achieve this. I know it is going be difficult. I am with you and let’s take up this challenge together.” Even if this message is not perfect, it is genuine and authentic. I encourage the truth, even if it reveals weakness or doubt. I am convinced that a sincere message is more motivating that brilliantly worded motivational slogans. And the most demotivating are insincere and empty slogans.
Authenticity in communication is an invitation to the authenticity of the interlocutor. If I take off the mask myself, I encourage them to do the same.
Authenticity is not easy. It can bring to light many issues that are challenging for the leader. I believe that it is easier to respond to problems that are known and diagnosed. It is more difficult to manage in the dark, to guess what the problem is, what the cause is. This is another advantage of authenticity in business relationships.
On a day-to-day basis, I support leaders and managers in the Accounting and Payroll Outsourcing Department. I talk to employees at all levels of various organisations. I value partnership over hierarchy. I am an advocate of open communication. I believe that attentive listening is crucial in any organisation and is fundamental in the HRBP role. I love my job.