Trust Your Team, and They’ll Own Up to It

Joanie Wang —  September 10, 2014 — Leave a comment

Think back to all the jobs you’ve ever had in your life. In those roles, when did you finally get handed some real, capital-R Responsibility on the job?

Individuals are generally hired at a company based on what they’ve done in the past and how that translates to potential at the new position. Even after a rigorous interview process that should have proven the candidate to be a very capable person, a new hire still has to prove themselves before getting some real responsibility. Why is that? 

Trust Begets Trust

Riding a bike

Learn the ropes and before long, you’ll be able to do it on your own.

As a new hire, onboarding feels a bit like learning how to ride a bike. Before you’re allowed on the bike, you have to learn from various sources the best practices of how to ride a bike. After this storm of information passes, you finally hop on the bike…only to realize there are training wheels attached.

Don’t get frustrated; training wheels are important in learning the ropes. The better you understand the basics, the easier it’ll be to find ways to insert creativity into the process.

When the training wheels come off, it’s time to ride like a big kid. Unfortunately, this is where processes start to get murky. Managers might still feel a bit nervous about you even after weeks of training, so they keep a hand on the bike handles to help steady the transition. The problem is that when a hand goes on, it’s hard to let go. Managers are afraid that if they let you go off on your own, you might crash and hurt the company, yourself, or both in the process.

It’s a very cautious position to take, but it’s not always unwarranted; take a look at a number of social media blunders that have happened due to poor judgement or lack of knowledge. On the other hand, micromanagement and overprotection might prevent the new employee from ever learning how to ride the bike properly on his or her own.

How to Give (Well-Earned) Responsibility to Your Team

Cultivating trust between you and your supervisor takes time, but being active early on can expedite that process. Don’t just go through the motions; ask questions and show that you’re thinking about and seeing the larger picture. Trust also leads to more responsibility, which helps cultivate the feeling of value, and culture helps with feeling a sense of belonging. But what does this look like in practice?

During my interview, I had discussed the potential of inbound marketing and restructuring the blog as something I’d like to focus on if I were hired into the team. After getting an offer and signing the t’s before dotting the i’s, the blog was handed to me to carry out my vision. Shortly after, the first thing I did was systemize the writing and publishing process by creating an editorial calendar. My previous work and the work I did during the interview process was enough for the team to say, okay, we trust you with your ideas on how to improve the blog.

From Varun Varada, one of our newest Software Engineers:

Varun, Software Engineer

Varun Varada, Software Engineer

“The best way I can describe it is that there is a seed of responsibility that’s planted into Expensify’s culture. The freedom that has been given to me allows that seed to grow organically so that I end up having more responsibility the longer I’m here. Going with this metaphor, the freedom is the soil that’s helping me grow. For example, I’m currently working on a fWOW project that came out of necessity, but I’m passionate enough to fix it that I’ve taken it upon myself to do so. Once that project is done, I’m going to start on another one that I designed myself.”

The lack of trust in new employees is not unwarranted, but if you hired someone based on the responsibilities they were given at their last job, chances are, they’re probably not an idiot. Spend the time onboarding and training them, but don’t deny new employees the chance to take on bigger projects either.

How do and when do you dole out responsibility to new employees? As an employee, what do you think? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

Joanie Wang

Posts

Joanie Wang is the marketing lead at Expensify. When she isn't helping rid the world of expense reports that suck, she is doing yoga, diving into SF's culinary scene, or playing with her adorable puppy Arya.

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