Trusting Your Employees - Taking a Step Back

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Trusting Your Employees - Taking a Step Back

Zone Leader, John Vester, provides a follow-up on his recent article focusing on 100% remote being an accepted norm and some thoughts on why remote is being held back.

· Agile Zone ·
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Recently, I posted my thoughts on 100% remote in the "When Will 100% Remote Be an Accepted Norm?" article. In the follow-up conversations that I have participated in since the article was published, there are consistent thoughts regarding "trust" as a key factor behind the lack of support for a fully remote Information Technology team position. As an unplanned follow-up, I plan to examine this issue of trust and why it is something that needs to be addressed.

Trust Defined

Regardless of the relationship, trust is always at the fundamental core and it will allow a relationship to blossom or to break apart. Taking technology out of the conversation, consider trust in a relationship you have with a loved one, a friend or a colleague in your career. As long as there is a degree of trust between you and that other person, the relationship remains at a level where you feel confident about the connection. However, once that trust is broken, the relationship takes a hit and instantly becomes less valued than it was before ... especially by the individual who was exposed by the trust breakdown.

Navigating to Merriam-Webster, I found the 1a definition of "trust" as shown below:

Trust - assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. - Merriam-Webster

A diminishing level of any single aspect related to trust (like character, ability, strength or truth) can cause harm to the alliance, which is why so many aspects can lead to a lack of trust in a relationship. I've always heard that building trust is easy - especially when compared to attempting to rebuild trust from an unfortunate situation.

Trust Within Your Employment

With trust defined, I will now switch the focus on the trust with your employer.

At some point, most were interviewed and given an offer to begin work for an employer. The effort on the part of the interview team likely screened several candidates and performed numerous tasks before that first telephone-screen/initial interview was scheduled. By the time the offer letter was drafted, an immense amount of work had been completed by the employer, adding to the corporation's investment in finding the right person for their open opportunity.

From the employee side, the interviews transpired and the offer letter was eventually received. After some negotiation, both the employee and the employer came to accept the terms of the offer, paving the way for the employer to fill a necessary position and the employee to continue a new career chapter.

With all of the work and effort put into place to onboard a new employee, it is hard to understand how a lack of trust can find its way into the employment relationship. So often, a lack of trust emerges, which caused me to perform some research into recognizing the lack of trust in the workplace.

Recognizing the Lack of Trust

I found an article on Monster.com, written by Pat Mayfield, on building trust in the workplace. As I read the article, I came to understand common ways in which a lack of trust enters the working relationship. I then wanted to determine if I could locate reasons why an employer would have trust issues with offering employees a 100% remote opportunity. I decided to focus on the top three reasons that were provided.

1. Be Honest

Being honest is Pat Mayfield's number one reason for building trust in the workplace. Recommending that telling the truth, providing honest information, and avoiding stealing were bullet points that accented this point.

With respect to 100% remote, the item that appears to be the most applicable would be to actually perform the work assigned to the given employee. Meaning, the remote worker would simply not work when they are expected to be working. However, I think this issue follows the employee who is not honest at the core. That, the same employee would struggle to the same degree if required to work at a desk within an office 100% of the time.

When I consider Adi Gaskell's August 2017 post "Working from Home Boosts Performance by 13%," the 100% remote employee is likely to get far more work completed than the alternative of working 100% in the office.

2. Use Good Judgement

The second reason Mayfield offered is related to using good judgment. Her point is to know what information to share and when to share/not share it.

While this aspect seems more related to gossip and the impact such conversations can have on a relationship, I think there is a valid point to using good judgment when working in a 100% remote scenario. Recently, I ran into a scenario with a project (where I am a remote developer on a team located across the United States) where I found myself at a design crossroads.

In some development environments, I could use my freedom to build out the design as I saw fit - which could not only take more time than expected but provide functionality that was not required or in scope. Instead, I used good judgment to reach out to not only the Dev Lead on our team but other developers on the project to make sure the right design decision was being made.

This is not a unique occurrence to me, but something every member of our team has employed - which is further enforced by the Agile practices we are employing.

3. Be Consistent

Here, Pat Mayfield is suggesting that showing up and doing your expected tasks are crucial to building trust in the workplace relationship. I could not agree more and believe this fully applies to the 100% remote scenario too.

While some may believe it is easy to hide while working remote, communication tools provide the ability to not only mark yourself as away but also be able to communicate (using @channel, @here, etc.) to everyone on the team your current status. Just today, a team member provided reminders of dental appointments, scheduled meetings, and other events which would supplement their away status - also providing an anticipated return time.

In reality, I find myself working longer hours in the 100% remote scenario. These extra hours do not have an impact on my work/life balance because I am spared the extra 45 - 60 minutes of commute time each day. So, in essence, I am being more consistent by being more dedicated than I would be in a situation which required me to work in an office setting all (or a portion) of the time.


Taking the three points offered by Pat Mayfield, I struggle to understand the rationale of trust being the issue holding back the 100% remote benefit. When I consider the amount of time and effort an organization took to reach the point where an offer letter was issued - I become confused in trying to understand why such a beneficial concept is not being adopted on a wider scale.

Some who commented on my original article talked about situations that offer less than 100% remote, which I understand so many corporations are doing today. However, I don't understand the logic of paying for the associated office space for employees to have a part-time desk at their office when the individual will only be there a portion of the time. In an age of corporations trying to minimize cost, I don't understand how a corporation is willing to pay for the extra office space - including the costs associated with cleaning, maintaining, and climate-controlling the facilities.

In the early age of corporate America, business professionals wore true business attire on a daily basis. They made certain their clothing selection was pressed nicely, with shoes shined to nearly a mirror-like appearance. If I could go back in time, I would enjoy the opportunity to ask that generation, "do you see a day when people will arrive at work wearing denim jeans, a cotton polo shirt, and casual un-polished shoes?"

I am certain every person I would poll from that time period would say that I was clueless. That makes me wonder if my thoughts on 100% remote are an indicator of how the future generation will demand to work.

Have a really great day!

agile, remote teams, remote worker, remote working, trust

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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