‘I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.’ – Friedrich Nietzsche

One of the biggest challenges facing newly appointed executives to manage the balance of information that we provide to subordinates and peers. There are very good reasons for withholding information—keeping team members focused on near term tasking, avoiding machinations, minimizing scope creep, etc. But, there are outsized consequences from withholding information that must be considered seriously. Nietzsche’s axiom above distills the problem to its most instinctual basis. The concept of trust is focused on the future—as is most of our thinking in a social environment. Our most fundamental, instinctual perspective on the future is based on our experience of the past. The betrayal that Nietzsche speaks of is not of the present but of the relationship with the future. As an executive, we must behave in a manner that allows our subordinates, customers and peers to maintain this basis of trust in our common future.

From “The Junior Executive”…

One of the most poignant and important scenes in the movie “Hoffa” with Jack Nicholson is during a scene with Danny DeVito. In the scene, they suspect one of their colleagues of not being true to their cause and potentially relaying their activities to enemies. DeVito’s character asks Hoffa why he shared some information with their colleague upon being asked. What Hoffa said is one of the most important pieces of advice a leader should integrate into their daily interactions with their subordinates. Hoffa rightly considered a refusal to include their colleague in the inner circle by refusing to share the information as a “slight”. He states, “If a guy’s close to you, you can’t slight ‘im. You can’t slight that guy. A real grievance can be resolved; differences can be resolved. But an imaginary hurt, a slight – that motherfucker gonna hate you ’til the day he dies” (DeVito, 1992). The language is coarse, but the sentiment is dead on. If we slight someone, we treat them derisively and without respect. For the majority of people, their pride will never again allow them to deal with us fairly. This is particularly true with subordinates. It must be stated clearly, the successful executive must never slight a subordinate. In so doing, we will create an enemy outright with little to no hope of reconciling—one who will seek us harm either directly or opportunistically. Many will simply leave and work for someone else.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *