Cyber WorkPlace

Remote collaboration consultants

10th Feb: Trust in the workplace

Trust seems such a simple word yet it’s imbued with so many levels of meaning – and in so many areas of our lives – that we rarely stop to think about what it actually means!  My heavily used 1998 copy of the Oxford Compact English Dictionary, defines trust as

‘A firm belief in the reliability or truth or strength etc. of a person or thing.  The state of being relied on.  A confident expectation. Obligation or responsibility. Reliance on the truth of a statement etc. without examination.’

It was (as I’ve mentioned before) a key factor in my working from home for so many years. Without trust, organisations will not be able to benefit from the growing trend towards more remote working.  If there is no trust then suspicion and doubt will creep in and they don’t  nurture healthy working relationships.

So I wanted to share a story that I heard many years ago.  Sir John Harvey-Jones was speaking at the London Book Fair, promoting his recently published book Troubleshooter – based on a very successful BBC TV series in the 1990s. In many ways JH-J was a pioneer who created the space for Sir Alan Sugar etc. to have successful media careers.  Anyway ….

… he appears on the small platform and begins to speak. He had amazing presence and held his audience rapt.   Not only was he much shorter than I had imagined but I hadn’t appreciated how charismatic he would be – the audiencewas overflowing into the exhibition aisles of Olympia so many (including me) were standing. Because there were a large number of librarians in his audience he told a story about how he travelled the world for ICI with a pack of 5″x3″ cards!  Every time he encountered an employee who was doing their job well he would fill out one of his pack of cards with details of who/where/when/what and on his return to his office, the cards were handed over to his PA.  She (it was a she) would then arrange for a case of wine to be sent to the individual with a note saying thank you from JH-J.

The recipients might be receptionists, lorry drivers, production line workers, or chemists etc. in fact any of the myriad of staff that ICI then employed. They were doing their job quietly and well, and he wanted to say ‘thank you’ in an effective way.  Which was very nice and very laudable.  However, the subtle bit came later – and JH-J had not anticipated how powerful his ‘thanks’ might be!  The lucky employees who received the cases of wine, were thrilled, and particularly so because they weren’t expecting anything – after all they were ‘just doing their job’. Weren’t they?  Plus they would get a feeling of being valued each bottle they opened AND tell all of their family and friends about it. So the message would spread.

The second element to his story-telling was to question the value of clocking-in and out machines?  As JH-J said, just because someone clocks in at 9am and out again at 5pm, does not guarantee that they are working in between times!

What a wonderfully simple – yet effective – way of nurturing employee loyalty.  Well I imagine so as I haven’t been able to test the theory out by interviewing any actual ICI employees.  I have, however, recounted this story many many times over in the intervening years to illustrate how powerful trust and respect are.

Does anyone out there know of anyone who received a case of wine in this way?

Lyndsay Rees-Jones

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One comment on “10th Feb: Trust in the workplace

  1. Pingback: Trust in the workplace « Ian Wooler

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This entry was posted on February 10, 2012 by in Remote collaboration and tagged , , , .
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