Servant Leadership Workplace-CYA

CYA Behavior – Symptom of Low Trust

Cover your ass – CYA for short (and to be more delicate).

Today at work, countless CYA emails will be sent. Countless CYA letters will be mailed. And countless CYA memos to file will be filed.


Because countless workplaces are plagued by low trust. And CYA behavior is a symptom of the low-trust illness.

Which is bad news for those unhealthy workplaces.

In the workplace, trust makes things run at a higher speed and at a lower cost. Like oil in the gears, trust helps work get done smoothly.

But a lack of trust is like gum in the gears – reducing speed and increasing cost.

Indeed, think of how much time gets wasted by CYA behavior.

In addition to time, valuable human energy gets wasted, too. Worrying about whether someone might throw you under the bus or stab you in the back is draining and distracting.

But wait, there’s more.

In low-trust workplaces, money also gets wasted – on things like lawyers and auditors, of course; but more subtly, I’ve seen lots of consultants hired solely for CYA purposes. What a waste!

Fortunately, there is a cure for low trust: servant leadership.

Building a trusting team is one of the three key priorities of a servant-leader at work.*

Servant-leaders know that high trust is a prerequisite to reaping the benefits servant leadership can bring to the workplace: meaning, prosperity and joy.**

So, look around and see if the symptom of low trust – CYA behavior – is common where you work.

If you find your colleagues engaging in excessive CYA behavior, it might be time to address the lack of trust directly (if you can). Or maybe find another position (if you can’t address the problem directly).

I will go a step further to suggest that, if you have direct reports, ask yourself, “Are my staff members engaging in CYA behavior? Is there something more I can be doing to build trust within my own team?”

In any event, rest assured that servant leadership remains a potent cure for the low-trust disease – and its symptoms.

Do you agree? What would you add?

Let us know.

As always, we appreciate your views. Thanks!

Be sure to download our latest ebook, Servant Leadership in the Workplace: A Brief Introduction. It’s free!


* For more on the subject of servant leadership priorities: “Servant Leadership – 3 Workplace Priorities.”

** For more on the subject of servant leadership benefits: “Want More Meaning, Prosperity and Joy?”