From the Deckplates - Build Trust Early

By Information Systems Technician Third Class Sha’Nae Wilson, U.S. Navy

• Those in charge do not back or support their personnel.

• Junior Sailors have the power and leverage to manipulate their superiors.

Once in the fleet, the notion that the Navy has a “zero-defect mentality” further contributes to an atmosphere of distrust. Although life in the military comes with many benefits, it also comes with a unique set of stressors in conjunction with the day-to-day pressures that one would encounter in any profession. Believing that one’s career can end as a result of any given mistake impedes the emotional investment needed to engender a long-term commitment to the military. Zero-defect thinking undercuts the development of engaged Sailors who exhibit pride and enthusiasm for their work and the Navy. This perceived zero-defect culture also deters Sailors from reaching out to their superiors when they need help—help that in many cases is readily available.

Given their experiences from the recruiting station to their initial assignment in the fleet, it should not surprise anyone that the Navy Retention Study found that nearly half of Sailors do not trust their leaders. Changes are needed to empower effective leaders to recognize the value of the subordinate-supervisor relationship and display an ability to develop and inspire individuals to reach their full potential. Serving in an atmosphere that fosters poor leadership, however, one can hardly expect Sailors to stick around longer than necessary, and even if they do, that their work ethic and mission dedication will be of high caliber. Recruiters must be honest; trainers must be allowed to correct; and leaders in the fleet must allow subordinates to learn from honest mistakes while holding themselves accountable to the same high standard they expect of others. By building trust at every stage of Sailor’s career, we will combat negative perceptions of leadership that plague today’s Navy, and increase retention of our most committed and productive Sailors.

Petty Officer Wilson is one of the lead helpdesk technicians at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam. She holds BS in psychology from Spring Hill College and an MS in counseling psychology from Troy University.


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