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Restructures and Downsizing - 11 November 2008

The George Bush era is almost over. No matter what side of politics you’re on, there’s no denying the downfall of a man who went from enjoying the highest approval ratings in history during his first term to being officially declared the worst President of all time in his second.

And it’s all because of the mismanagement of trust. Three big events occurred during Bush’s presidency that deteriorated the level of trust that people had in him: The financial crisis (trillions of dollars wiped from world markets), Hurricane Katrina (275,000 homes destroyed), and the War in Iraq (4,500 Coalition lives lost).

A similar situation unfolds in workplaces undergoing restructures and downsizing, but instead of losing money, homes, and lives, employees are losing jobs, colleagues, and responsibility. An unintended consequence is that the trust employees have in their leaders is eroded, and it’s always because one or more of the following were at play:

Lack of communication: The people’s trust that the Iraq War was necessary was damaged when it emerged that there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction and that Iraqi leaders didn’t have any associations with Al Qaeda. Likewise, if you’re not communicating honestly and credibly, your employees simply will not trust you.

Lack of care: Despite Hurricane Katrina being the most devastating natural disaster in US history, Bush, Cheney, and Rice stayed on vacation. They were absent when the country needed them most. Similarly, if your employees feel that their wellbeing has been sacrificed for management’s personal gain, they will not trust you.

Lack of competence: The financial crisis in the US had been brewing for years, yet the lax in accountability and inadequate regulation continued unchecked. Your employees are assessing you as much as you’re assessing them. If during trying times you’re neglectful or react in a knee-jerk fashion, they’ll think you’re incompetent and… will not trust you.

When you go through tumultuous periods of downsizing and restructures, what’s far more important than cost-cutting or project efficiency is trust management. In this time of presidential transition where the contrast in leadership style has never been starker, it’s pertinent to ask yourself whether you’re more like Bush or more like Obama.

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