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Trust - 1 February 2011

You might already know this, but now it’s proven by research: domestic dogs are dumber than wild ones. Researchers discovered that dogs become so dependent on humans that many are no longer able to pass easy intelligence tests and have difficulty solving problems their wild counterparts find effortless.

The study looked at homeless dogs (those that were once domesticated). Since they’d previously become accustomed to being taken care of by a human, once these dogs were without an owner and minus a home, they struggled. They’d look for scraps in rubbish bins and find it almost impossible to reach food hidden in a maze.

Wild dogs, though, such as dingoes, were considerably smarter and faster than domesticated dogs, usually finding food in a maze within ten seconds, whereas domesticated dogs would helplessly scratch at a fence and relentlessly bark at their owners for assistance. They would look confused, unable to adapt to their changed circumstance.

This has a lot to do with employees at work. In many ways, employees fit into the same two categories. Either they’re a domesticated dog, pampered to such an extreme they become dependent on their boss. Or they’re a wild dingo, neglected to such an extent they’re forced to fend for themselves. Neither option is ideal; somewhere in the middle is better.

A lot of it comes down to trust. If they trust you so much they know you’ll always fix up their errors, or finish the work they don’t get done, or have the conversations they’re too afraid to hold, then they’ll become the pampered dog. If they trust you so little they never seek your assistance, or they don’t share important information with you, or they have a better relationship with other managers, then they’ll become the wild dingo.

Here are some tips on striking a better balance:

  • When they make mistakes, get employees to rectify them. Try to avoid taking over and correcting them yourself.
  • Hold people accountable by having a discussion when work is incomplete. It should be a genuine enquiry rather than antagonistic dialogue.
  • Create a safe space where they feel comfortable approaching you with issues. This has more to do with your body language and attitude than any kind of ‘open door’.
  • Ask questions to extract what you need to know. Seek feedback on what’s working and what’s not, and get employees involved in implementing solutions.
  • Be conscious of people’s behaviours and moods. If you notice them becoming too distant or too reliant, that’s a sign you need to alter your approach.

But mostly it’s just about awareness. The more conscious you are of the trust between you and your employees, the easier it is to create change. You can teach an old dog new tricks.

 

To download complimentary e-books on employee engagement, retention, and recruitment (valued at over $100), please click here.

 

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