Do You Trust Your Boss?

My assistant, Trish, asked me, “When are you going to blog about employee trust?”

I asked her what she meant. She explained that she trusted a great deal in me and her other boss—to do the right things for her, to provide job security, to create a rich experience.

Now, I’ve had a boss, and I’ve been a boss. And if I knew then what I know now—well, then I’d have known a whole lot more.

I think that my experience working for people was probably typical. I liked most of my bosses. Those I liked, I trusted a lot; those I didn’t, not so much.

To those I liked, I imputed wisdom. I would ask them questions if I didn’t know the answer, and I asked a lot. The best boss answered socratically.

(The best single employee lesson I ever got was from a terrible boss; he couldn’t articulate what it was he wanted, and I was finally so frustrated that I did what I thought was right. Which turned out to be what he had been trying to tell me. Lightbulb.)

I thought they were older (true, in my case) and wiser (so I thought; not true in the rear-view mirror). I argued with them, just to engage and to find out their logic. Sometimes, this would piss them off. It didn’t dawn on me they didn’t know.

From the rear view mirror, I see now they were hardly different from me. One was wildly insecure. Another, insecure and alcoholic. One, quixotic. Another, sometimes wrong but never in doubt. Most had charisma. All were genuinely nice people, and all could make some Really Stupid Moves.

I suspect my experience is the norm.

(Though for about 6 months, Jamie Dimon, President of J. P. Morgan Chase, one of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2006, reported to me. Well, administratively anyway; not quite the same as being his boss. Jamie didn’t have quite the awe for his bosses that I did. I suspect Jamie figured he was smarter than all of them, and just lacked seasoning and data. I imagine Jamie still believes that, and by now he’s more than earned the right to say nyah, nyah, he was right, too!)

Jamie aside, the rest of us have met the enemy, and it is us. I am my old bosses, at various times, in various ways. I’m just another sentient idiot on the planet trying to make sense of it all and keep the back foot movin’, hoping the front foot it’s following is generally hewing to a forward-wise di-rection.

A study once queried students and faculty, asking each what they thought of the other group, and how much time they spent thinking about that group. The results: faculty spent little time thinking about students, but figured the students thought a lot about them. The students spent little time thinking about the faculty but figured the faculty spent lots of time thinking about them.

Moral: In the real world, empathy consists of staring at the other guy’s feet almost as often as at your own.

And Trish trusts me. Hoo boy.

But you know, when people trust you, it has an ennobling effect. Yes, I tell her to think for herself, and not to be dependent on others. But, I still try to do right by her. I do want to be a good boss.

After all, she trusts me. Waddya gonna do?

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