Why it’s essential to trust—not spy on—your remote employees

July 7, 2020 | Posted by: Charlotte Pineda

As HR leaders, we need to remember that good management is always about people and trust. Yet, the uptick in employee surveillance software sales since the Covid-19 pandemic, which has forced so many to work from home, threatens to erode employee trust and fracture the employer / employee relationship.

Trust is the lifeblood of all relationships. As former TDIndustries CEO, Jack Lowe, Jr., says, “Trustworthiness, which requires character and competence, can only flourish with leadership that trusts, supports, and encourages.” Right now, most employees are currently overburdened, exhausted and worried beyond measure by family, health and financial stressors caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, they need the trust, support and encouragement of their leaders—not lazy, fearful, punitive micromanagement that shades ethical lines. “Why do we monitor rather than mentor people?” asks Ann McGee-Cooper, business author and consultant.

Before deploying surveillance tactics, managers should reflect on Anne McGee-Cooper’s words, and ask themselves the following questions:

  • What’s the real motive behind these tactics?
  • Are tactics such as taking pictures of our employees as they work from their laptops at home necessary?
  • How can I best position my employees for success?
  • Have I asked my employees what they need to meet their goals?

Now, go back and ask yourself the above questions a second time—and be real!

Yes, there’s a school of thought that believes such tactics aren’t about spying, and instead are all about productivity. They are correct: It’s all about productivity. However, this approach ignores the fundamental human element and lacks the essential ingredient that underpins the employer / employee relationship: trust.

If you need to employ such tactics to get your people to produce, there’s a high probability that your employees are not the problem. Be a leader. Talk to your people and ask them what they need to be productive from home. Then, do all you can to give them what they need!

A culture of accountability is the key. Involve your people in the process as much as possible and hold individuals accountable. Trust serves all as it fosters shared vision and leaves underperformers nowhere to hide.
Of course, there will always be a few employees who habitually slack off. Deal with them individually and hold them accountable for their behavior. I can guarantee that everyone on the team knows who the slackers are. And each time you institute a new rule or policy to combat the few who slack off, you diminish your trustworthiness and further damage the employer / employee relationship.

In the end, if you use lazy, fearful, punitive micromanagement tactics that shade ethical lines, your best employees will go where they feel valued and trusted: elsewhere.