Career Management: The benefit of the doubt

After I wrote a recent post on whether it’s time to leave your current employer, a friend of mine made a great comment that I wanted to pass along. Their addendum to my list of factors was “have you lost the benefit of the doubt?”

My friend has gone through a gradual “falling out of love” at their firm. A few changes in leadership lead to subtle changes in vision and incentives and all of the sudden what was once a great, collaborative place has become fairly unpleasant to work at. When things change you can become “part of the problem” because you are aligned to the legacy culture and the new powers-that-be see that as an issue. Now the clock is ticking… Let’s talk about three implications.

First, at a personal level:

Well before you get to a breakup, there are little signals. The minor disagreement that people over-react to or the honest mistake that gets ascribed to lack of effort or caring. If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. The “canary in the coal mine” is losing the benefit of the doubt.

If you’ve lost it, it should be clear if you pay attention. Are your boss or co-workers immediately assuming you did something nefarious or deceptive when a situation doesn’t go well? Or are you the one that doesn’t “get it”/”isn’t on-board” when challenging thinking? Once trust is lost (fairly or unfairly) it’s hard to get back.

You’ll have to decide if it’s worth trying or whether it’s another brick in the “time to go” wall…

Second, as a manager:

Are you fair to those who have lost your trust? If an employee has lost the benefit of your doubt – have you let them know? Did you deliver feedback that gave them the opportunity to get back in the circle of trust? If not, just let them go or move them out. Don’t be the passive aggressive manager who just lets people linger in purgatory. That will kill the whole team.

I just finished reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and was amazed at Jobs’ clarity of vision as to who he thought was “brilliant” and who was a “bozo”. He also emphasized frankness. Then he just fired the bozos. That’s not my approach, but I do encourage you to deal with the loss of trust and move to build a team you do have faith in.

Finally, as an addendum to “Is it time to go” post:

This raises a larger point about getting specific in how you define the categories in my simple example on evaluating whether to stay or go. This could fit under my “culture” category, but is specific to my friend’s situation. So remember to tailor the framework to your own situation. I rarely have involved templates, because I think they tend to allow people to check their brains at the door. Take simple, but powerful ideas and adapt them to your own needs.

So do you still have the benefit of the doubt?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *