Monday, January 9, 2012

First impression, lasting distrust

Imagine this situation:  In her first meeting with a new boss, a talented manager reviews her open projects, key deadlines, budgets and staff performances.  During the discussion on key deadlines, the manager points out to her new boss that she has scheduled  two consecutive weeks of regular vacation in the next quarter.   The trip is an annual family visit that the manager has made every year since entering the work force.  The new boss, when hearing about the vacation, at first says nothing. After a pause and while jotting something in her notebook, she says, “How do you get two weeks off in a row?”

Is the new boss:
  1. New here and genuinely wants to be shown where the “Paid Time Off Requests” are on the HR site so she will know how to apply for her own two weeks off in a row?
  2. Building a base of trust and rapport with her new direct report using non-verbal cues?
  3. Thinking silently about the deadlines and a possible conflict with the upcoming vacation?
  4. Hedging a bit now so that later she can deny the vacation?
  5. Trying to get the upper hand in the new relationship?
Trust in a relationship gains its trajectory in the opening moments of a relationship. If you want people to trust you, you need to show right away that you value the things that are important to them.  Threatening those things or just being silent about them will definitely make for a very low relationship trajectory.


  1. PW, I want to give the supervisor the benefit of the doubt, but the truth is that no one can read our minds. So when we fall silent, people are left to imagine what is going on in our heads. If the new boss is really in the at '3', then after they pause and collect their thoughts they can say something like, "Good for you, that time off will be great I am sure." If they stop right there, the direct report may volunteer what they do with the annual vacation and that sort of personal conversation will be the ground for planting a real relationship. Then the boss should be transparent about their concerns, because they are real and valid and can ask, "Do you believe you have the resources you need to keep your projects on schedule between now and the time you leave? How will your projects and deadlines be handled when you are out?"