According to Business Week (1/24/05), 51 percent of employees have confidence in their managers. That’s up from 44 percent in 2002. OK, so the upward trend seems to be a good thing. but the bigger question is – What’s going on? Why is it that almost half of all employees don’t have confidence in their bosses? Every year organizations spend billions on management training, buying books on leadership for corporate retreats, sending people off to elite executive boot camps, team building, consultant interventions designed to increase trust and confidence, and coaching. Makes you wonder if anything works.
I certainly don’t know “the” answer, but I think I know at least one of the contributing causes of the problem. First, organizations give lip service to the types of values that employees and managers would find appealing. However, the world doesn’t always support things like openness, trust, and inclusion – the very types of things that often give people confidence in their bosses. Organizations are competitive places. There are limited resources and opportunities to get ahead. Survival of the fittest is just as true in corporations as it is on the savannahs. When managers (and the rest of us) feel our survival is at stake, a common first reaction is to look out for ourselves first. And that leads to hoarding information and resources, doing things that curry favor with some at the expense of others, and so forth.
None of this is surprising. What is surprising is that there is so little recognition given to this significant part of organizational life. More and more the Machiavellian world of organizations has captured my attention. My article “Martin Buber Meets Machiavelli” deals with this topic. https://www.odnetwork.org/odponline/vol36n4/
(Sorry there is a charge to get this issue. But it goes to a good organization. The Organization Development Network.)
I plan to keep exploring this topic.