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Monday, September 26, 2011

Does Trust Really Matter at Work?

The author is an Organisational Development Practitioner
With deep concern written on his face, the CEO looked at the staff during their monthly meeting and asked, ‘don’t you trust me?’ With that question, the room was thrust into dead silence as staff turned their eyes away from the CEO. No one wanted to lock eyes with him. They had all been copied on an anonymous email sent to the senior management team by ‘a concerned staff’ accusing the management of dishonor.
Apparently, the management had promised staff to work for an extra two months with half pay with the promise that the CEO and his team were burning the mid night oil to ensure the salary account was back on track. One of the staff had in the meantime written to the management indicating that staff did not trust the promise and were contemplating mass exodus from the company.
As the meeting progressed, deep thoughts went through the CEO’s mind and the more he thought, the more convinced he got that he should not after all worry about staff trust. He wondered, ‘with the intense battle for the few available places for work, should it really matter to me whether staff trust or not? Since many staff are stuck in the workplaces for lack of other places to run to due to the shortage of jobs, who would want to be concerned about whether they are trusted or not? Staff can never move away since there is nowhere to run to anyway and even if the current team that does not trust moves away, others will be waiting at the gate seeking to fill up their spaces and the machines will not stop running.
‘Is trust the energy that drives the company  car or operates the computer or is it the skill that makes awesome presentations to stakeholders? Whether we are trusted or not, won’t we have profits soaring since the clients still need our products anyway? Will staff stop participating in corporate social responsibility or will they cease wearing workplace designated uniform just because they don’t trust the management?’
Far from it, Mr. CEO. Trust is actually the glue that holds organisations and companies together. It is one of the most critical values that dictate staff performance and productivity.  It determines whether staff work from the heart or from the muscle. When staff trusts its management, there is an inertia that is generated towards better performance. The work environment is filled with hope and optimism even in the most difficult moments. Challenges are turned into opportunities and teamwork surmounts the highest of the barriers.
And trust is infectious. When staff trusts the management, the management ends up trusting the staff and vice versa. The organisation develops structures and systems knowing that staff will find pleasure in adhering to laid down rules since all know that the structures are inbuilt for the common good. Staff do not feel like the systems are implemented as a result of mistrust or to impede freedom at work. There is a general appreciation of the changes suggested by the management while the staff concerns and suggestions are taken into consideration since all operate under the spirit of good faith.

Monday, September 12, 2011

First time job seekers need to manage anxiety

(The author is an Organisational Development Practitioner)

Have you ever wondered why people are so confident when applying for jobs but become overly anxious the moment they have been considered for an interview? This is true more for first time job seekers. In most of the cases, they would have been prepared by their tutors or friends on how to go about the process of looking for a job. Some would have gone through my hands in coaching them through the dos and don’ts of job search. Yet, even with all this support, anxiety still tends to overshadow all the preparation.

It is never difficult for an interview panel to tell when a candidate is anxious. Both verbal and non verbal cues are generous in exposing inner feelings of anxiety. From the time the candidate gets into the interview room, it is clear when a person is not settled. In this state, you would find yourself fidgeting, moving up and about on your seat, flipping through your certificates and even pouring water on your important documents as you seek for stability. You would also find your initial responses to the interview questions being incongruent.

Research has shown that it takes the first 10 seconds for an interview panel to form the first impression about a candidate. Within this period, the panel would have decided whether to proceed with the session or whether to initiate the close of the session. There are cases when great candidates have missed amazing opportunities for presenting themselves as unstable persons at interviews mainly due to anxiety. First time job seekers take up interview opportunities as life and death engagements. They fear that poor performance at the interview could spell doom to their future job search.

Since they do not appreciate the expectations of the panels, the job seekers find themselves groping in the dark being overly cautious; little do they know that their caution is their own undoing since they are misjudged as unstable persons. The realization that the job market is different from a campus set up also adds to the pressure. While on campus, students are tolerated for years even when their performance is dismal. They still get a graduation certificate, notwithstanding the grade. At work, it is either the employer’s way or the highway. Results are critical and room for mediocre performance is absent. The pressure to perform is hence on the rise and the new job seeker must live up to the expectations.

In managing this anxiety, first time job seekers ought to realize that anxiety grips not only the first timers although they are the hardest hit.  When you find yourself in this situation, you will need to identify your mechanism of handling anxiety. While some people run away, others become aggressive to cover up the weakness. Regardless of how you manage your anxious moments, it is necessary to realize that keeping your cool is a professional virtue. You should seek to develop the personal capacity to best manage anxiety.

We tend to breathe faster and harder when anxious. Taking a deep breath is an important way of managing anxiety. The deep breath should however be taken in such a way that does not attract the attention of the panelists. Learn to write down the factors that make you feel anxious. In some of the cases, you will be shocked to realize that there is not real danger that is worth the anxiety. Many people get anxious when they realize they are ill prepared for the interview. It is then necessary for you to consider investing for the interview processes by adequately understanding your potential employer, the context and arriving at the interview venue in time. 

You don’t want to appear at the venue panting and wondering whether you are still in contention due to your late arrival.