Post from Transformation Tom: Have Unprofessional Days—Gain Trust and Respect: Chapter from “The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas”

Posted by tomdowd - April 17, 2018 - News - 1 Comment

Have Unprofessional DaysGain Trust and Respect

Are you a person people trust and respect? That’s a tough question to answer on your own because trust and respect can’t be asked for—they must be earned. Trust and respect are also easy to lose. In my first year working, we had a person going through a management development program who covered our team in my manager’s absence. The team was not listening to him. They were having side conversations in the middle of a staff meeting. The manager-wannabe screamed out, “You need to respect me.” No, we did not have to respect him. In fact, whatever little respect we might have had was now gone. Respect can’t simply be demanded.

The same is true for trust. Trust has to be gained. It takes a while for some people you are working with to truly trust you. However, in a company working towards a common objective and goal, it is critical to find the trust of the right people, especially people with whom you work closely. Of all my shortfalls, being ethical and trying to do the right thing were not one of them. Although I had issues earning respect from people who worked for me early in my career, trust seemed to be easier to gain. I needed to find a creative way to do both.

I am not a big fan of rumors, talking badly about people we work with, or yelling and screaming in the workplace. However, there are some days you want to bang your head against a wall. There have been occasions I have placed my phone on mute and stuck my tongue out at the computer. This is a very effective way to let off some steam and stem some frustration.

I found a creative way to earn both trust and respect. I used the trusting reputation I had, and gave people an ear during times they needed to vent. I have shocked many people working with me when they started down a tirade or sounded frustrated by encouraging the conversation to go further. Depending on the day of the week this event would occur, I asked them if they wanted this to be “unprofessional Monday (or Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday, or Friday).” As expected, I often caught people off guard with the question. However, the question often lightened the mood and allowed me to explain the opportunity that they could have a protected and supportive conversation to get them through the issue. What started as a joke to break up the frustration of a couple of individuals has now turned into a regular routine I have done for many years. I once had a person from Human Resources pull me to the side to “discuss” my “unprofessional Tuesdays.” I thought I was about to get an earful from someone who frowned upon it. She started chuckling and commended me for creating an open environment, and made a comment that she might need to come see me herself for a couple of frustrating moments she wanted to get off her own chest.

The cleansing feeling of letting it all out eventually comes. First, it eases some tension the person may be feeling. However, most people start to tentatively tell me what’s going on. Pent-up frustration soon turns into open dialogue. The discussion might start with problem dumping but most often turns into problem-solving sessions. When they know that what they’ve said behind closed doors (literally or figuratively) stays there in confidence, I earn their trust a little at a time.

In the long term, I am building credibility as a listener, a confidant, and nurturing the relationship with that person. The relationship aspect grows over time, which further allows more complex problem solving. By proactively offering my services to give the person a time and place, even unscheduled, to complain, I actually see the complaints diminish as the person learns to deal more effectively with his or her frustration levels.

This is not a wide-open invitation to “roll buses.” However, I have found that this exercise allowed me to better understand the emotions people experience and how venting clears their heads. Once emotions are in check, the person becomes more objective in his or her thinking. People need to be comfortable in order to speak their minds. By providing a place for them to do that freely, they can become more effective in the short- and long term, and you as a manager or mentor gain trust and respect.


Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):

  • Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
  • Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
  • Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
  • The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
  • From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
  • The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood

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