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Nov 13, 2014

I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen that I’m a proud cynic.

The definition of “cynic” varies slightly from dictionary to dictionary, but most say something along the lines of “distrustful or scornful of others’ motives.”

However, I think that’s a little harsh. I prefer to define my world view as a pragmatic recognition that most people most of the time will behave to further their self-interests.

And I don’t consider pursuit of self-interest terribly shocking or awful, either. For the majority, pursuing what we want is not incompatible with living peaceably with others.

Plus, frankly, I think the world could use a few more good cynics, because then typo-riddled email messages promising the recipient millions of dollars from her long-lost but dead Nigerian uncle would produce fewer victims.

Good grief.

The importance of benefit of the doubt

But even I, an unabashed cynic, believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt until doing so proves unwise.

And when it comes to your brand new employee, bestowing the benefit of the doubt is especially important.

I’m talking about trust, people. I’m talking about treating your new employee as though you sincerely believe in his ability to competently do the job you hired him to do with-out an inordinate amount of oversight, double-checking, and second guessing from you.

Naturally a new employee will make mistakes (as will any employee, actually), but mistakes are how we learn. Mistakes, and the unpleasant feeling of failure, make lessons penetrate.

HR consultant Helen Richardson developed a coaching model called A New Way to Think about Work, in which she proposes that work is a relationship. And it is.

So trust me when I tell you that treating your new employee as though you aren’t sure you made the right decision in hiring him is not a good start to the relationship.

Trust your employee’s ability and willingness to learn

That’s why whenever I teach anyone anything, I show him once, and then I leave him to do it. If, after reviewing his efforts the work is good, I congratulate him and move on.

If the efforts are less than good, and I need to teach something again, I’ll do it. But my goal is always to show once and move on. It’s efficient, and it sends the message that I trust the learner’s ability to learn.

And at some point, no matter how new your employee is or how much you perceive him as not knowing, you’ll have to relinquish control or risk compromising your new hire’s performance as his confidence wanes and his frustration grows — and that’s if he even decides to stick around.

So here’s my question for any less-than-trusting managers out there: What bad thing do you think will happen if you trust your employee to do the job without your constant supervision? And, how do you suppose your lack of trust is making your new employee feel about you and his new job?

Do you think it causes him to trust you?

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