Article: How to deal with a CEO who has trust issues


How to deal with a CEO who has trust issues

We introduce in this issue, “The Counsellor”, a section to find expert answers to professional, personal and ethical dilemmas that we encounter at our workplace
How to deal with a CEO who has trust issues

As an HR head, you should strive to coach, support and guide your CEO


To have an inherent bias in selectingpeople is not unnatural and the same is true when people tend to hire from one's own community or religion


 We introduce in this issue, “The Counsellor”, a section to find expert answers to professional, personal and ethical dilemmas that we encounter at our workplace.

Our Expert, Vivek Paranjpe , consultant & Strategic HR Advisor to Reliance Industries


Dear Sir, I am a HR Manager of a company which has 200 employees. My CEO does not trust the employees as a result of some past experiences he has had which has deterred his confidence in people. He thinks everyone is out to defraud the company, and this mindset has led us to create many policies which are not entirely appreciated by the employees. While he instructs strict compliance to these policies by the support staff, he allows the revenue and sales operations group to enjoy a relaxation. The support staff has approached me questioning the sanctity of these policies, given this difference in approach to the different teams. My CEO is not open to feedback, so I do not know how to communicate the concern to my CEO. Please advice.
An organization’s culture evolves as a result of several experiences that the entrepreneur or the top leadership gains over time. Practices and processes are a reflection of the core values and beliefs prevalent in the company, which further guide the strategies and the vision of the company. While it is undesirable, it is also not unusual for one to swing to an extreme, merely because of a bad experience.
Organizational processes must be built with appropriate checks and balances for better effectiveness. Empowerment and delegation of authority must always be coupled with governance and risk management components embedded within the system. In your question you said “he lets the revenue and sales operations group to have their way”. This is perhaps because he has more trust in the leaders of these groups, which is good news. But, at the same time, you must ensure that this organization also has the right governance (checks and balances) in place. If not, it is your duty to nudge the CEO towards creating the same.
As a HR head, you should strive to coach, support and guide your CEO. You must learn to empathize with him in order to understand why he does, what he does. Have patience and slowly nudge him towards trusting his people across the company and he will probably come around. You say that your CEO is not open to feed back - I am not so sure about that. If your feedback is supported by adequate data, facts and wise counsel, and is presented in the right fashion, I am sure he will listen to what you have to say.
But the question is - do you have enough credibility with your CEO? If not, you must first work towards building your own credibility with your CEO. Do not write him off without putting in efforts at your own end. Facilitate the right communication across the company to explain the need for having the right checks and balances in place, instead of saying “my CEO is wrong”.

Dear Sir, I am a HR Head of a family-owned company. This company follows a strange practice of selecting those people who belong to the same religious group as the owner, whether or not they are good for the post we are hiring. This has resulted in creating a strange organization where we have a mix of very good professionals and very poor ones. This has led to the better people leaving the firm. I feel frustrated, and feel like quitting as well, although I have been here only for 7 months. What should I do?
To have an inherent bias in selecting people is not unnatural and the same is true when people tend to hire from one’s own community or religion. As HR professionals we have to accept that such human tendencies will exist. The fact that some part of the organization has some very talented professionals shows that the entrepreneur and the family do value meritocracy, where it is absolutely necessary.
As the HR Head of the company, you must help your CEO to understand the importance of meritocracy and diversity, coupled with the need to create an inclusive work environment. If you believe that the religious biases are coming in the way of organization’s effectiveness and disrupting the work environment, try to present the case to your CEO in an objective fashion - substantiate your feelings with data. Culture will take time to change; but a business case, presented with the right facts and figures, will expedite the process of change. Have patience and work towards it.
Further, changing jobs may be the easy way out for you, but you must remember that every organization has its own challenges, issues as well as opportunities. Try to make a positive difference! Do not look for the easy way out.

Dear Sir, The Head of Accounts Head and the Financial Controller in my company are required to work together, but they cannot stand each other and therefore, they are unable to work together, thereby interrupting the workflow. While the Head of Accounts is an experienced and knowledgeable person, he does not want to commit to a decision. The Finance Controller, on the other hand, is a much younger individual who does not think before emailing or saying anything, to anyone, and therefore their personalities are clashing. While I have tried to talk to them separately, as well as together, their issue seems to be only getting worse. They are now also involving other department heads in their issue. What should I do?
From the information that you have stated before me, it is not clear to me how your organization is structured, and hence difficult to respond to your query. However, interpersonal conflicts in workplace are not unusual. But if such conflicts exist in the leadership team, they can have an adverse impact on the organization and its productivity. I am guessing that both gentlemen report to a common boss, perhaps the CEO or the CFO. As HR Head, you need to work with their common boss, and try to understand the root cause of the conflict. You should try to focus on the root cause rather than on the symptoms.
If it is an organizational issue that is causing the sore relationship – such as a role overlap, or non clarity of roles - you need to fix that first as conflicts are bound to happen in a case. Find out who can influence them inside the company, and use his/ her help to bring some sanity in their relationship. Coaching and counseling from you and the common boss should help. If that does not work, you may want to address it directly and clearly to both of them together. A direct confrontation also helps many a times and may just be a better approach in this case. You could share with them the facts and data to show how their relationship is counterproductive. Most adults who are reasonable and logical will change with such an intervention.

Vivek is a Senior HR professional with over 35 years of experience, ranging several leadership positions, in India and abroad. He leads his consulting practice since 2003 and presently works as a Strategic HR Advisor to Reliance Industries, and is also an independent Director on the Board of Motilal Oswal Financial Services Ltd. Prior to this he was based at Singapore for several years where he was Director HR - Operations at Hewlett Packard for the Asia Pacific Region.

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Topics: C-Suite

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