Contradictory messages can undermine trust

by | Jul 29, 2011 | News

Simon Hayward from Cirrus writes for People Management

Isn’t ‘The Big Society’ supposed to be all about shared responsibility and communities of people supporting each other? It was quite a surprise to hear that one of its biggest advocates, David Cameron’s strategy director Steve Hilton, has apparently suggested the government could kick-start the economy by scrapping maternity rights. After all, aren’t rights like these the hallmark of a responsible society?

The suggestion to end maternity rights was made behind closed doors by Hilton, a renowned ‘blue-sky’ thinker (other suggestions apparently include abolishing job centres and ignoring some European labour regulations).

I’m all for original, radical thought. Without it we wouldn’t have any creativity or innovation. However, I do feel it needs to be balanced with an attitude of responsibility – particularly when the organisation you work for is the one that rules the country. When you’re one of David Cameron’s closest advisors, the chances of your musings going public are pretty high.

When leaders who work together contradict each other, it’s confusing for others and potentially damaging. The prime minister has regularly championed family-friendly policies and made a point of taking paternity leave when his youngest child was born after he was elected. When one of his key aides suggests scrapping maternity rights, it does raise questions about consistency at the heart of government.

People inside an organisation need to connect to each other in order for people outside the organisation to connect to them. Contradictory messages from the inside tend to confuse those on the outside. This can erode trust and cause disengagement. Neither of which the government – or indeed any organisation – needs.

Click here to read Simon’s blog post in full on the People Management website.

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