Scrutiny: Is it Good or Bad?

scrutiny can be destructive to relationshipsThis is a double edged sword.

I think that we can all agree that Congressional Oversight Committees in government are both good and necessary. After all, power has a history of corrupting many people.

But the actual act of scrutinizing another person, measuring and judging their actions with a ruler we set out, how does that affect the relationship?


It’s a little like the story of the bullies in the school yard. So many studies indicate that they came from bullying environments. The territorial competitiveness with a need to win over others gets learned at home and repeated.

So it is with scrutiny and suspicion. Sometimes we learn it at home, sometimes we learn it in the workplace and sometimes we learn it through the media we consume. Then we go out and repeat it.


Years ago, when I worked in Youth Protection, some scrutiny is required to root out the less honest or competent workers. After all, the clients are the most vulnerable in our society.

My clients did not fit into the models I was taught in school. I used a lot of instincts and out of the box thinking. Since my immediate supervisor did not have this instinct to draw from, she would dig out her magnifying glass and pick apart every action I took with my clients. Then she told me that is not how we do things and that she was watching me.

Strengthening family relationships and increasing responsible parenting were my strong suit, but while I was doing it, the scrutiny wore me down and made me second guess myself. When I left that job, I was credited with getting surprisingly great outcomes from very difficult case files.

I understood the sneakiness of my successful long-term fellow workers. In fact, there is a whole underground of amazing social workers who quietly do things differently to help their clients. Ironically, one of the things they do differently is to avoid scrutinizing their clients too closely while they support them.

It’s hard to create metrics around something nobody talks about. Maybe there are better models of intervention but environments where scrutiny and suspicious leaders makes it impossible to know for sure.


If we want to have a more collaborative and supportive environment; we need to promote feelings of trust through respectful curiosity. We need to engage the employees through 2 sided dialogues and conversations. Imposing the way we’ve done things without questioning its efficacy creates stagnation and/or fear as opposed to growth and innovation.

We need to discern between how to be involved with each other in a supportive way versus watching each other like hawks in order to cherry pick things that only serve to make us feel superior or right.

Let go of the magnifying glass, step back and try and see what the other person is seeing. It’s time to foster trust and respect in the workplace and at home.

In my experience, lives can be changed forever!

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