Here's why our bosses distrust us

When leaders punish subordinates, they often do this out of distrust. Afraid of losing their position, they use punishment as a deterrent. However, new research shows such punishments are not very effective.

Distrust is the primary reason why leaders impose punishments on individuals over whom they have power. Leaders expect others not to follow the rules, and punish them on the basis of this distrust. Ironically, not only are these punishments hardly effective, but they have the potential to exacerbate the situation. When people feel distrusted, they are less inclined to obey the rules. They deem this assumption on the part of the leaders as a clear sign of disrespect. Thus, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.

Furthermore, leaders are afraid of losing their power, and act out of the desire to protect that power. That's why they wield punishment as a deterrent -- to ensure that rules are never broken again. They feel that if they're too trusting of others, this trust can be abused, which would in turn threaten their position. The last thing they want is to be demoted or fired as a consequence of their trust.

As noted earlier, punishments of this ilk do not have the desired effect. Some power systems can actually aggravate the problems, particularly when such issues such as unethical behavior, fraud, and plagiarism are involved.

Most of us have observed such leaders in the workplace. I happen to have one in my own department. In fact, it is managed by an overbearing woman who seems to trust no one but herself. She micromanages everything from the annual budget to our list of office supplies to the ways employees create spreadsheets. She's worked there for over 30 years, so one can surmise that she's only become more power-hungry over time.

When a subordinate does or says something she disagrees with, she speaks to him or her in the most condescending manner. What's more, it seems she has done everything in her power to prevent others in the department from getting a well-deserved promotion. It's no wonder everyone in the department feels demotivated and despises this unpleasant, autocratic lady.

It's precisely this behavior that prompts people to switch jobs. When one doesn't feel trusted, he or she will eventually end the relationship, whether it's of a romantic or professional nature. Bosses who don't trust their employees (especially when such distrust is completely uncalled for) and resolve to punish them are doing themselves a major disservice. As you've learned through this post, punishment can backfire on them.

Have you ever had a boss who has distrusted you? How'd you deal with such behavior?

Check out more insightful posts here: How to Understand People

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