Eva Schulte-Austum: The Home Office Experiment. Why it fails – and how it succeeds.

03. October 2020 – Mandy Weinand

Blog post by business coach Eva Schulte-Austum:

The Corona crisis is turning our working life upside down. What do you do when daily routines suddenly disappear? When established rules no longer apply? And you work from one day to the next in your home office – or have employees who do?

Eva Schulte Austum: If you look closely, you will see that we are in a crisis of confidence.

This is particularly evident in the trust between managers and employees. This is nothing new, as current studies show. But it is becoming a new problem, because unlike before the crisis, supervisors are forced to relinquish control and let go, due to their work in the home office. And that is exactly what trust needs.

In more than 350 interviews with scientists and experts around the world, I have researched what trust is and how it can also succeed in companies. In the process, I came across 3 characteristics that make up the ability to trust other people: Giving control, accepting uncertainty, positive expectations of the other person.

Experience shows that managers who master these three points find it easy to delegate tasks, hand over responsibility and promote a sense of unity within the team. However, my experience as a management coach shows that trust is particularly difficult for German managers in practice.

Symptoms of the crisis of trust

Those who cannot trust will find ways to transfer their need for control to the digital world. It is not without reason that control calls in the home office, the use of economic detectives and computer-based surveillance programs are currently enjoying a boom. How the latter affects employees was recently demonstrated by the experiment of journalist Adam Satariano from the New York Times. For two weeks he tested a program that recorded all activities on his computer. Every email, every page view, even keyboard downtime was logged. Conclusion: Even though he voluntarily allowed himself to be monitored and his data was not passed on to his supervisor: At the end of the 14 days he felt exhausted, listless and demotivated. This gives an idea of the actual consequences of excessive control on the productivity of employees.

We have a leadership problem

Leadership needs trust. And yet: Who doesn’t know at least one superior who constantly looks over his employees’ shoulders and wants to be informed about everything even when they are on vacation. Yet these people rarely lack the knowledge of how to delegate tasks. After all, there is hardly a management training program that does not provide a few clever impulses. The reason why delegating in practice so often fails is another: there is a lack of trust competence.

Many managers in this country have never learned to deal with uncertainty and risks, in other words, to trust. This, by the way, puts them in good company. Research shows: We Germans are not exactly world champions in trust. Compared to people in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, Germans are comparatively risk averse and have a great need for control. So it is hardly surprising that managers try to regain a bit of security in a crisis by exercising more control. A fallacy with far-reaching consequences.

The costs of control

The price paid by managers and employees for excessive control is enormously high: dwindling motivation, falling productivity, rising sickness absence, increasing fluctuation, higher stress levels. And that is only the tip of the iceberg. Not for nothing does a Danish proverb say: “Trust is good. Control is more expensive.” Because with increasing control, costs explode. Anyone who has ever tried it will know: Control costs a lot of time, a lot of energy and even more nerves. And in the end, it has exactly the opposite effect: Because without meaning to, managers use constant monitoring to educate their employees to be lazy, irresponsible and weak in decision-making.

The dividend of confidence

The good news: Trust can be trained like a muscle. Every time we give trust away, the muscle grows. Provided we have positive experiences. In the course of time, it becomes easier and easier for us to endure uncertainty and give up control. Our own ability to trust becomes a basic prerequisite for successful delegation and leadership at a distance.

3 tips on how to train your trust muscle:

  1. Trust others to do something
    People outgrow themselves when they are trusted.
  2. Clarify expectations early on
    In this way you avoid misunderstandings, prevent conflicts and ensure a good working atmosphere.
  3. Give a leap of faith
    Take the first step and give confidence. You will be rewarded with positive experiences, gratitude and trust.

Perhaps you know the saying: “In the long term, managers get the employees they deserve.” Research confirms this. So invest today in the employees you want to work with tomorrow. It’s worth it.

About the author:
Eva Schulte-Austum is a business coach, keynote speaker and Germany’s best-known trust expert (NDR, ZDF). The studied business psychologist advises companies on the topics “leadership”, “change” and “new work”.

Would you like to book Eva Schulte-Austum as speaker for your event? Please send your request to: eva-schulte-austum@premium-speakers.com

Eva Schulte-Austum

Leading Expert on Trust, Leadership & Teamwork