I spend a lot of time thinking about the driver problem. Generally, I don’t bring it up in conversation because I’ve learned most people aren’t quite as passionate as I am about trying to solve it. But I’m always thinking about it and from time to time I get to write down my thoughts. If you’ve gotten this far, perhaps you’re also interested too. So let’s look at yet another odd comparison: Politicians, Dispatchers and Drivers.
I was reading a political article yesterday and it got me thinking. I wondered why politicians lie to us, even when they know they’ll be caught? Why do they lie when they know there are videos or printed documents that will be used against them to prove their lies? I was baffled.
Why Do We Lie to Our Drivers?
My mind moved quickly away from politics and back to my favorite subject the driver problem. I began to wonder why do we lie to drivers? I decided before I would write this blog, I would do a little research. So, I Googled, “why do people lie.” I got 447 million search results. The first few posts organized the reasons into numbered categories. The six reasons why people lie. The nine reasons why people lie. The three reasons why people lie. I read through them, while continuing to contemplate the driver problem. I came up with a few of my own theories.
The research says that we tell lies when we are afraid… afraid of what we don’t know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. And fear is the number one motivator of human behavior. So, fear is at the root of telling lies. What then is it that we fear when we lie to a driver?
- We made a mistake and don’t want to admit it. We fear the driver will be upset with us. We fear the driver will misinterpret our honest mistake as disrespect. So, we lie.
- We need the driver to do something that we think he or she will push back on. We fear the driver will either say no or complain and we want to avoid that conflict. So, we lie.
- We fear the driver is already upset over several issues that have occurred. We fear they might quit. So, we lie about something inconsequential.
Lies Tend to Snowball
But every time we tell a lie, the very thing that we fear grows stronger. We’re afraid of what might happen if we eventually tell the truth. Maybe we’ve done something wrong and we’re afraid of the consequences of our action, so we lie to cover it up. But look at political scandals. It’s not the misdeed that gets people in trouble. It’s the cover-up. Lies tend to snowball.
Lies are often motivated by a desire to get other people to either do something or not do something. That’s probably the most prevalent situation when it comes to interactions with truck drivers. The dispatcher needs to cover a load, fears the driver will say no and decides to lie. Or, the driver gets left at consignee’s dock for far too many hours and misses the appointment to pick up the outbound load. The dispatcher lies to try get out of trouble.
Lies are an expedient way to avoid a confrontation. It’s not my fault. I didn’t do it. It was somebody else. It didn’t happen. It kicks the can down the road. But, as I learned as a child, one little lie leads to a bigger lie and then to a bigger lie. Eventually they catch up with you and there comes a moment of reckoning. That moment of reckoning with drivers is when they quit.
Choose to Be Honest With Your Drivers
So, what can you do about it? Well it’s as simple as tell the truth. But simple isn’t always easy. You need to dig deep down to understand yourself, to appreciate that there are compelling motivations to lie. And they all stem from fear. You need to suppress your fear. Fear of confrontation. Fear of the repercussions for making a mistake. Fear of disappointing the driver. Again, it all comes down to fear. Crush it.
You always have a choice. In this case, I recommend you choose to have open, honest and productive conversations with your drivers. Years ago, I was involved in a lawsuit and my attorney said, “the truth will set you free.” He was right. The truth can be liberating.
Let’s face it, there are aspects of being a truck driver that suck. It’s no secret. You know what’s good about the job and you also know what sucks. Your drivers know what’s good about the job and what sucks. Why shrink away from it? It’s called work. There’s no reason to tell any lies. Put it out there.
“Hey Bob, here’s the situation. I screwed up. I didn’t do it on purpose. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I wasn’t showing disrespect. Plain and simple I just made a mistake. I’m sorry. I can’t promise it won’t happen again. I’m human. I can try my best to avoid mistakes.”
Building better relationships with your drivers begins with understanding basic leadership principles.
Drivers don’t quit companies. Drivers quit their dispatcher or fleet manager - the person they directly report to. During exit interviews, most drivers cite some version of disrespect, a lack of appreciation or honesty as their reason to leave. It comes down to the relationship. And nothing destroys a relationship faster than a lie. Remember: Open, honest and productive conversation will set you free. Honesty will help you forge stronger relationships with your drivers and better retention for your company.