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Paranoia and Fear at Work? How to Build Up Trust

Stop hovering over people and start working beside them — treating each person as a valuable part of the team.

Image courtesy of 123rf

“Quick, hide!” You hear the whispered warning from your co-worker. The hawkish boss is circling the office again — hunting for intel and ready to swoop. He sees no problem with preying on his own employees to get what he wants. Squawking about status updates being delivered at the end of each day, he claws his way into every meeting and conversation.

The boss is using information from the team to feather a cushy nest at the top. And eventually, everyone will fly the coop.

Creating an environment of paranoia and fear may work in the wild — but not in the workplace. When you feel like your boss is watching over you, recording and analyzing your every move, you lose trust. And once that trust goes, it may never come back.

I put this question of “hawkish bosses” out on LinkedIn and got many responses. Some folks were in such fear of retaliation that they messaged me privately, sharing that their boss had “made it clear he reads EVERYTHING I post on LinkedIn.” Another person commented, “Ugh, these kinds of bosses aren’t extinct yet?”

Not yet — the office hawk is alive and thriving, never satisfied. And if this under-surveillance atmosphere sounds familiar, you might feel worn down and frustrated. Of course, there is a difference between hands-on leadership and a controlling, manipulative grip.

Or, if you are really honest with yourself, maybe the office hawk is you. If this is the case, it can be a hard truth to face. But there are ways you can correct this harmful behavior in yourself and others. Instead of hovering over employees, you should work alongside them — treating each person as a valuable part of the team.

Here is how to avoid your own hawkish behavior:

Set a clear vision
Plans should not be hidden away, only visible to a privileged few. Teams perform best when everyone understands the goals and the higher purpose. So, set a clear vision for the team. Get everyone familiar with the plan and how each person fits into it.

Make room
The vision is set — now is the time to step back and empower the team to get busy and do the work. Give time and space to be productive. When you provide this kind of autonomy, you will give people the confidence that they can accomplish something meaningful.

Be transparent
Openness is critical if you want to be a strong, effective leader. The alternative is secrecy, which only leads to whispered gossip and make-believe explanations. As policies shift and decisions are made, you should be open and honest — explaining the “why” behind each move. This keeps everyone focused on the important work.

Teach hard
Great leaders help the team be their best. This means you help people set their own career goals, stretch them to keep learning, and challenge them to grow. A big part of this is providing feedback — continuously and in a way that is both direct and meaningful. Whether you are a leader in title or action, people should think of you as their most active and supportive coach.

No one should feel like a sitting target at work — waiting for the hawk to strike.

So, stop hovering. Step out of the shadows. And start building trust by providing purpose and meaning. The rest of the team will benefit, and so will you.

After all, even hawks need a flock to survive. It is called a “kettle” of hawks and when they fly together it is a mighty sight.

How do you avoid the hawk in your office — or avoid becoming one?

Originally published on the Aha! blog

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