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Creating Respect and Trust

Trust is about being able to rely on someone. It is something you subtract.


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Thejus Chakravarthy

2 years ago | 4 min read

We’ve already talked about why respect and trust are the only things you need at work. Now, let’s discuss exactly what we mean by respect and trust. As in, what do those words actually mean in the context of work.

Respect is about admiration for someone because of their abilities, qualities, and achievements. It is something you add.

Trust is about being able to rely on someone. It is something you subtract.

Photo by Crissy Jarvis on Unsplash

You don’t have to like someone to respect them. You don’t have to enjoy their company to trust them. In fact, you can learn to work with people you hate, if you respect and trust each other.

Respect and trust aren’t like a pen or a pad of paper you can pull from a supply closet. They are aspects of human interaction, behaviors that are a result of the environment. So, you have to construct that environment.

Photo by Alain Pham on Unsplash

To get these things, respect and trust, you have to do three things:

Every effort, project, or task must have quantitative criteria and must be evaluated impartially.

Once the work is done, it must be evaluated against these criteria. The evaluation process must be done in a way that scrubs out identifying personal markers.

This allows the work to speak for itself. For example, if team A completes a presentation, it should not be evaluated by manager A. It should be handed off to manager B who should be given the criteria and asked to evaluate the presentation.

This criteria is then held up to the completed work and, should the work meet these criteria, the work passes evaluation.

Why go through the hassle of a separate evaluator? Implicit bias. Even in something as genderless as coding, knowing a woman coded something makes other coders judge it more harshly.

Photo by Nicole Wolf on Unsplash

Respect demands that we acknowledge this problem and set up an environment that bypasses its effects. Trying to ‘fix’ people is not a workplace problem. That’s a societal problem.

But what about qualitative criteria? Aren’t aesthetics an important part of certain fields? Sorry, but no. Creative work has rules, criteria, what the client wants, what the research shows, etc. You might have a creative take on a project or process but unless it fulfills quantitative requirements, it isn’t work.

Talk to any of the world’s finest ‘creatives’ and you’ll hear about the quantitative criteria they adhere to when working vs the criteria they have for their personal art.

Once the work passes evaluation, the contributors should be acknowledged

In the example above, after manager B signs off, manager A should reattach team A’s personal markers (name, location, picture, etc).
These markers should never be removed again and should be part of the completed work in perpetuity. An acknowledgements page, a commented line in the code, a page on a website that lists contributors, that sort of thing.

Because visibility is a part of respect.

Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

If you manage a team that does work, their output is not yours by some form of effort transmission. The fact that they did the work has literally nothing to do with you.

The best a manager can hope for is to not get in the way of the team. The pinnacle of management, where it bleeds into leadership, is when your management of the environment leads to better work.

That doesn’t mean you don’t include your own personal markers. It just means you include it in the same way you include everyone else’s.

Always start at the highest level of delegation and only move down when there is an issue.

At work, trust is defined by the level of delegation, whether between boss and staff or within a team.

“The levels of delegation, from low to high, are:
Wait until directed
Ask what’s next
Recommend what’s next
Do it then report immediately
Do it and report routinely
An example would be telling a child to clean their room. At the lowest level of delegation, you would tell them to put their toys in the toy chest and wait. Once they finished, you would tell them to put their clothes in the hamper and wait. And so on.
At the highest level, they would tell you every week that there was no problem keeping the room clean.
Understand that the higher the delegation level, the faster the throughput.”

(excerpt from Brushfire)

Keep that last line in mind if you find yourself missing deadlines. You may not be trusting your team enough. Constantly checking in on progress is a surefire way to delay it.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

If you are in an environment that does not have a way to handle delegation, or you lack the autonomy to put these things into place, take a step back. Look at your work and the people you work with. Ask yourself, what do I control? Where could I put these things in place?

Maybe you can’t change your department or your team, but maybe you can change yourself. Maybe you can work with someone else in your department and they could be your evaluator. Better still, maybe someone who doesn’t even know what your department does, someone with fewer preconceived notions, would be a better evaluator.

Maybe you can’t affect how your boss delegates to you, but you can affect how you respond to your boss. Maybe you can stop waiting to be directed and start asking what’s next. Maybe you can stop asking what’s next and start recommending what’s next.

Work doesn’t have to be a place where everybody knows your name. That’s for after work.

Work does have to be a place where you can get and give respect and trust.

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Thejus Chakravarthy

I find ways to help people perform to the best of their abilities, make processes as efficient as possible, ensure technology is being used to accelerate not complicate. In the end, there will always be work. But if we do it together, maybe it won't feel like work.


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