would you trust a stranger more than your boss?
By ed bagley in Appreciation and Engagement
A Harvard Business Review survey reveals a majority of respondents would trust a stranger more than their own boss: 58 percent would trust a stranger, 42 percent would trust their boss. Pathetic as that sounds, most of us can think of a boss like that somewhere in our careers. And if you think further, a sobering realization may hit you: Are you that boss?
Early in my career, I was assigned to work for someone I’ll call Sally. No one liked working with Sally. Not because she was a tyrant or unpleasant—she wasn’t She was actually funny and charming. But she was one of those who confuse activity with accomplishment. She was at her happiest doing several things at once—none of them well—and reveled in the martyrdom of how hard she worked. Because of her frenetic style, she would often give conflicting direction, focus on trivial details, forget things, and create a lot of re-work.
But that was not the worst of it. To those of us who worked for Sally, the most dispiriting thing was she didn’t seem to have a feel for our work or what we were doing. It felt like we—and our work— didn’t matter. We didn’t trust that she had our best interest at heart.
However, one small gesture from Sally gave me a new perspective. At the end of a big, complex product re-launch, Sally called us together to thank the team. She gave me a plastic red fireman hat in honor of all the “fire-fighting” I had done to keep the re-launch on track. That may seem like a small thing, but it meant the world to me. For the first time, I knew she valued my work. And my trust in her improved dramatically—all because of a cheap plastic fireman hat. It created in me empathy for her, and I wanted to help her be a better boss. I found myself more engaged at work.
A Towers Watson study on engagement bears out my experience with Sally. In environments where trust is low, appreciation boosts engagement from 35 percent to a whopping 63 percent. And in environments where trust is high, appreciation pushes engagement even higher, from 65 percent all the way to 91 percent.
So if you find yourself in a low trust environment, you might get a quicker and larger bump in engagement by making appreciation and recognition a part of your culture than about anything else you could do. Just ask Sally.