Are you struggling to build and sustain trust in your workplace? You’re not alone. Human dynamics are challenging. Relationships are complex.
If you’re like most people we serve, you’re running into three common problems as you try to strengthen trust in your organization.
Problem #1: Trust is not obvious.
Did you know 90% of the behaviors that break trust are subtle, fleeting, and unintentional? You and your colleagues don’t mean to break one another’s trust, yet you do, without even realizing it, through your daily habits. Most often, you don’t speak up about these ‘little’ infractions of trust…but that doesn’t mean their impact doesn’t accumulate and isn’t felt.
In a recent interview with us, Forbes columnist Roger Dean Duncan put it best: “It’s been said that a thousand tiny paper cuts can do as much damage as one deep stab wound. In the workplace, what are some of the seemingly harmless “trust paper cuts” that add up to produce feelings of betrayal?” (See our answer.)
Problem #2: Trust is not intuitive.
Even when people have a general sense of the things they do that compromise trust, they still slip up and practice those behaviors. Their best intentions simply get trumped by the pressures and demands of the workplace. The problem is, when trust gets broken, we’ve found people typically do the opposite of what’s needed to restore it.
Problem #3: Trust is not ‘someone else’s’ responsibility.
When trust breaks down, regardless of the cause, people tend to wait on their leaders to step in and restore it. As people wait, they build barriers. They withhold trust until they’re guaranteed trust. A downward spiral of distrust takes over.
What you can do next
Just because you’re running into roadblocks with trust doesn’t mean you can’t reach your destination. You want a high trust workplace. The first steps to build one are yours to take.
Step #1: Get curious!
You can dramatically improve your relationships at work simply by asking questions. How might your subtle, fleeting habits be eroding trust? What little things might you be doing – unintentionally – to impact others’ work? Might you be running on assumptions, instead of testing them? Withholding clarity, instead of creating it? Talking about someone, instead of with them?
We’ve found when people get curious – rather than defensive – about how their behaviors influence trust, they can break through to higher trust relationships.
Step #2: Extend compassion.
We don’t mean to, but, we all break trust. You do. We do. We all do. Trust will be built and trust will be broken. And, when it’s broken, our tendency as people is to withdraw, withhold, and protect ourselves. Which is why it’s critical you offer compassion when trust breaks down…both to others, and to yourself. Through compassion, you can appreciate yourself and others for who you are – fallible human beings who’re doing your best in fast paced, high pressure environments.
Extending compassion – instead of judgment – gives you and others permission to be human. Compassion allows you to move through disappointments, let downs, and broken trust more fluidly, and learn to trust again.
Step #3: Take the initiative.
No one – no matter how wise, powerful, or expert – can build high trust relationships and a high trust workplace for you. The real work of trust building happens within you. With how you choose to bring yourself to your relationships. With your outlook. Your intentions. And your commitment to keeping a close eye on your behaviors.
We all share this work with you. Trust begins with each one of us. We each have equal opportunity to take responsibility, take action, and create the very thing we want – high trust, highly meaningful workplace relationships.
Yours in trust,
Michelle and Dennis Reina