Ombud’s Corner: sowing the seeds of trust…

As a boss, do you unconditionally stand by your line management when they are involved in potential conflicts with their supervisees or do you take a stand and look into the issue yourself?


Marc goes to see Anna, his Group Leader, because he feels his team is being treated unfairly by his direct supervisor, Luke.

Marc explains that he and his colleagues have been exposed to unfair public criticism and other similarly unpleasant situations several times and that they feel they are being bullied. He has tried to discuss this with Luke but to no avail.

Anna tells Marc that he is being overly sensitive, that he should realise that workplace efficiency cannot always make room for niceties and insists that she knows Luke to be an excellent supervisor.

Marc returns to his office feeling very disappointed and tells his colleagues: “It is no use – these managers always stick together and refuse to listen to our point of view.”

This type of scenario can lead to a general feeling of distrust where people dismiss the Code of Conduct as a mere ‘paper exercise’ and refrain from raising issues with their hierarchy as they are perceived to ‘not walk the talk’.

It does not always have to be this way, however, and it would not have taken much for Anna to turn the scenario around and start building a greater sense of trust among colleagues with just a few simple steps:

Marc goes to see Anna who listens to his account and probes him for specific examples in order to understand his perception of the situation faced by his team.

She then thanks him for bringing the issue to her and assures him that she will take the matter up with Luke in order to get his side of the story.
She suggests that they meet again within a week, together with Luke, in order to agree on ways of moving forward.

Marc returns to his office feeling very reassured and tells his colleagues he was “well received”. He believes that their concerns have been heard and that some action will be taken.

Often, for a boss, it is really just a matter of demonstrating a willingness to listen and understand the concerns of their staff. While it is totally understandable that managers would not wish to bypass the first-line hierarchy and intervene directly in internal matters of the team, it is equally important that issues that are brought to their attention are not perceived to be brushed under the carpet or summarily dismissed.

In the second scenario, by listening to Marc, and then taking the matter up with Luke, Anna shows that by respecting both points of view and taking subsequent action, she is able to work towards finding a mutually acceptable solution.

Moreover, by this action, she also takes a vitally visible step towards sowing the seeds of trust throughout the whole system.

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All previous Ombud's Corners can be accessed in the Ombud's blog.

by Sudeshna Datta-Cockerill