Trust your people or fire them


This may sound a little harsh, but allow me to explain: You see, I’ve spent my adult life working for a number of corporations and have yet to stumble across one which has not struggled in some measure with employee trust.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning.

Let’s say you’re a manager in charge of hiring a bright new employee. You’ve read all of the resumes, done the interviews, and selected the right candidate for the job.

Presumably, you’ve hired this individual because he seemed qualified and competent. You brag to other managers about what a remarkable hire you just made. How wise and prodigious it was of you to have found such a person and identified his greatness. You’ve assured your boss of the enormous potential of acquiring such a talent.

But then something happens. There’s a little voice in the back of your mind that wonders if all of the wonderful things you’ve been saying about your new star employee are, in fact, true. After all, what do you really know about this so called talent? What if that gut feeling you had, telling you he was the one, was… wrong? What if he turns out to be a dud and it reflects badly on you?

So you decide to mentor him. Of course, it’s your responsibility to make sure he’s catching on, learning the ropes fast enough, happy in his new place of employment. Maybe he’s younger, less experienced and could learn a lot from you. These things may all be true. But pay attention, this may not be as altruistic as you would have yourself believe.

In a healthy boss-employee relationship, the training wheels come off as soon as is practically possible. But some managers (it’s up to you to decide if you’re one of them) can’t quite let go when it comes time to let their little bird fly.

Enter stage left – micromanagement. Soon you find yourself constantly looking over his shoulder, asking that he not do anything “drastic” (i.e. core requirements of his job) without running them by you first, and maintaining that, “he just isn’t familiar enough yet with the goals, vision, and inner-workings of who we are to be making decisions that could effect the company”, even in the most minute way. At some point, it becomes clear (to those around you if not to yourself) that the training wheels have been on for far too long.

So now what? Your new star employee has been effectively demoralized by your clear lack of faith in his ability to perform his job, and on top of that, you’re left to deal with projects and responsibilities that were supposed to be alleviated by allocation to said employee.

It’s easy to convince oneself that your doing it because you know best. But in truth, being a control freak stems more from insecurity than competence.

The bottom line is this: You hire someone for a position because you believe that that person is capable of doing the job. If you don’t believe that or you can’t have faith in their abilities, fire them. If you think them unqualified, fire them. If you think them incompetent, fire them. Find someone you can trust.

Now take a step back and objectively think about this employee. Is he competent and qualified? If the answer is yes, then step aside and let him do what you hired him to do, even if he goes about it in a way that you wouldn’t. Give him the chance to fail on his own before preemptively deciding that he will.

Above all, have a little faith. Have faith in the ability of your employees, have faith in yourself for being able to evaluate and determine the right candidate for the job, and have faith in your boss and coworkers to understand if your new employee is not the stellar talent you hyped him up to be, but is instead a mere mortal.

Undoubtedly, not all employees are competent and not all hires are good ones. But if you find yourself routinely having to micromanage your people, it’s not them it’s you. It may be time for a hard look in the mirror.

And so I’ll leave you with the words of James Thurber, “You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backwards.”



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