The word “snoop” means “to investigate or look around furtively in an attempt to find out something, especially information about someone’s private affairs” and conveys the image of someone prowling around looking for fault inquisitively or in a meddlesome fashion (sticking one’s nose into someone else’s business). Interestingly, in Dutch (snoepen), the word has the very negative connotation of “taking and eating food on the sly” or “stealing and eating food in a clandestine manner”. More commonly, the word means “to keep tabs on”, “to keep an eye on”, “to look over another’s shoulder” or “to keep under surveillance”, with the emphasis being on the action being secretive.

In the workplace, snooping typically occurs when managers want control over people and the contexts in which they work. This is particularly true of “control freaks”, who seem to check for the smallest of errors and end up becoming “snooper-visors” instead of supervisors. Snooper-vision is demeaning for employees as it questions their integrity, ability and responsibility. Employees feel one or more of the following:

  • A lack of trust
  • Intent and integrity being questioned
  • Insecurity and unease
  • A lack of transparency

Most employees want to do their work well out of a sense of self-respect and pride, but they need some semblance of autonomy and an empowering environment in order to perform. When the approach of the manager is disempowering, employees lose heart, energy is drained from the environment and respect for the manager diminishes. Managers should therefore focus on the following:

  1. Growing a trust environment – employees need to feel safe in their relationships with all their colleagues, but especially with their boss. A trust environment ensues when managers are consistent, fair, caring, transparent and authentic.
  2. Communicating effectively – give staff sufficient information (don’t keep them in the dark), focus on the “big picture”, discuss concerns objectively, solicit ideas, acknowledge high performance and address low performance and laugh a lot.
  3. Connecting employees to organisational values and goals – draw the dotted line between employee contribution and the value that this creates for the organisation.
  4. Getting employees to think – managers employ staff not just for their feet and hands, but also for their minds and hearts. Don’t think for staff, but rather give opportunity for employees to solve problems, implement new ideas and come up with their own solutions. This also feeds a sense of autonomy and generates more confidence.
  5. Treating all employees with dignity and respect – value the human being, treat everyone fairly, build into their sense of status, grow their self-esteem, acknowledge effort and reward employees appropriately.

“Snooper-vision” creates a disempowered environment and ultimately leads to disrespect, low levels of trust and greater suspicion. Authentic employee engagement that extends trust, on the other hand, boosts morale and the willingness to perform well for the sake of the team and the company objectives.

Free To Grow’s “Engaging Leadership” workshop addresses and provides the skills for authentic employee engagement (

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