Being a trusting person can be just as difficult as earning another person’s trust. I learned this at age 6, when I spent most of my first dance recital shoving my classmates into their places rather than performing my role. Because I didn’t trust them to know their steps or the teacher to handle any problems, I caused the class to give the audience a big laugh rather than an inspiring show.
As an adult, I learned that those control-freak tendencies translate into micromanagement and other unpleasant behaviors. Even worse, I found that those behaviors are common to many managers and that the lack of trust creates a toxic work environment. In turn, overall productivity and quality suffer. “Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him and to let him know that you trust him,” Booker T. Washington wrote in his 1901 autobiography, Up from Slavery. He was right, and that’s something I remind myself every workday.
Trust was one of the strongest themes running throughout the nominations for Professional Remodeler’s first 101 Best Companies to Work For issue. Employees wrote of their supervisor’s respect for their judgment, believing in the president’s vision, knowing they can count on co-workers to chip in and finish a job, being proud of their employer’s reputation among clients. All of these boil down to trust. When we surveyed the employees of the remodeling firms that made our initial cut, we found that trust mattered even more than compensation or training.
If even one person doesn’t have or give trust, work environment and team performance suffer. When there is a handful of such people, you have a contagion on your hands.
One particular nominated company caught my eye for that reason. Returned surveys featured such written comments as “The more money the company makes, the more they keep,” “Maybe if it was for the worst-run company we could break the top 101,” “They are good about not giving pay raises, taking away bonus checks and making us pay for gas in their vans,” “Management are a bunch of stoners and penny-pinchers,” and “This place is a s---hole — if you’re a stoner, then you’ll go far here; if you’re honest and do good work, then no one pays any attention to you.”
Talk about toxic. As the residential construction industry continues to struggle to find, hire and keep good labor — skilled and unskilled, office and field — it’s imperative that remodelers analyze not just what potential hires bring to the table but also what their companies offer employees. That means more than big-bucks compensation and benefit packages. Look at the intangibles: Respect. Pride. Fairness. Camaraderie. Trust.