Four Ways to Build a Culture of Honesty and Avoid ‘Productivity Paranoia’

A lack of trust between colleagues and managers in remote and hybrid environments can damage workplace culture and morale.

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It was inevitable that the rise in working from home would create tensions inside many organizations. But it didn’t have to be quite this bad. According to a new survey by Envoy, less than a quarter (24%) of employees trust their colleagues to get work done remotely.

One of the reasons, Envoy said, may be “productivity paranoia.” Microsoft has defined the term as a scenario in remote and hybrid work environments “where leaders fear that productivity is being lost due to employees not working, even though hours worked, number of meetings, and other activity metrics have increased.” It’s possible that employees are sensing this paranoia in their managers and mirroring it themselves.

The distrust can go both ways. Managers complain that they can’t keep tabs on their direct reports who work remotely. Yet many remote workers worry that their in-office counterparts try to use proximity bias to build closer relationships with higher-ups, gaining an edge for opportunities and promotions.

Research shows that distrust damages workplaces, whereas high levels of trust fuel engagement and motivation while reducing absenteeism.

Throughout the years that I’ve spent training organizations in spotting lies and eliciting the truth, I’ve helped businesses develop cultures that breed both trust and honesty in a virtuous circle: The more trusting the environment becomes, the more reliable and productive its participants become. Since the pandemic began three years ago, I’ve seen what it takes for organizations to forge the right path in this new era. Here are four steps any manager can take to increase trust and honesty in a remote or hybrid work environment.

Assess Employees’ Individual Environments

Remote workers have largely been lumped together as a group, but they are not monolithic. Some are proactive and independent in planning their work and are comfortable not just communicating but sometimes overcommunicating their concerns and progress to their managers — which working from home often demands. Others struggle without the support of colleagues and managers alongside them or have difficulty focusing when surrounded by loud family members or roommates.

Managers should prioritize understanding how each employee does their best work. At regular intervals throughout the year, check in to see how they are doing in their work environment and whether changes need to be made.


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Comment (1)
Eleanor Felton
I had no idea that there were so many companies using software to monitor their employees but it doesn't surprise me. It is crazy if they don't tell their employees what data they are collecting! What a breach of privacy and trust!