Who Can You Trust at Work These Days?

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I’m starting to see a bleak picture of the state of trust in our organizations.

That’s worrisome.

Trust allows you to communicate openly, it makes you comfortable with higher levels of productive conflict, and it contributes to quality decision making.

Not only does trust help your team do better work, it helps you work efficiently. As Stephen M.R. Covey explains in his book The Speed of Trust, improved communication, conflict, and decision making, associated with high trust helps your organization move faster.

But who can you trust anymore?

Your Leaders

Maybe you used to look to your leaders to instil confidence and make you feel like everything was on the right track. But lately, leaders are less inspiring.

The world keeps changing and they don’t seem to understand how to cope. They roll out new strategies before fully implementing the previous one. You have a drawer full of laminated strategy pyramids and pillars and platforms that are all out of date.

Your confidence doesn’t go up when your leaders inform you that one of your best customers has now become a competitor. At least they have a catchy term for it. You now have “frenemies.”

The company used to be the dominant player in your industry but regardless of how optimistic your leaders try to sound at the town hall meeting, it’s clear that you’ve slipped into a trailing position and are just replicating your competitors moves in a vain attempt to catch up.

You rode the lofty days of high profits and big bonuses but this is your third straight year of reorganizations and cost cutting.

You’ve heard so many “burning platform” presentations that you could practically give the presentation yourself, but you’re still waiting for someone to make the link between the external trends (markets, competitors, consumers, regulators) and what you’re supposed to do differently every day.

The result is a perceived loss of control. Things aren’t predictable anymore, and predictability is key to trust.

So just at the moment when your organization needs to set course and go fast, you’re wondering who’s got their hand on the rudder. Instead of moving forward, you wait to figure out which way the wind is blowing.

Your Managers

Now just because your leaders are trying to figure out which way is up, it doesn’t mean all hope it lost.

Your manager has always been an important connection point. A strong relationship with your manager can provide stability.

Now think of the challenge for the average manager: they are learning about and reacting to organizational changes with about three nanoseconds’ head start on you.

While sorting through and coping with their own issues, they are asked to stand in front of you and make a compelling case for the change. You almost feel badly for your manager when subtle (and not so subtle) cues betray their concerns.

So while your manager puts on a brave face and tows the company line, you’re actually getting more nervous about what’s real and who you can trust.

Maybe you barely recognize your boss anymore. The challenging business environment and a greater emphasis on accountability is probably adding an edge to what used to be a strong and nurturing relationship.

It’s not a stretch to imagine that you hardly recognize your formerly supportive coach and mentor boss in the new harried, metric-driven, driver you now encounter.

Your Teammates

Is all hope lost? Have we completely severed the ties that used to provide comfort and predictability?

What about your team; are you feeling connected to and confident in your team? If you’re the average employee, probably not.

First, the overwhelming workload is affecting the pace of work, which is in turn affecting the downtime you have to interact casually. Do you shorten your lunches and breaks and just wolf down your food and get back to the task at hand?

What about after work opportunities? Do you have a long commute or family demands that cause you to leave before the team goes for a drink or plays in the company baseball league?

On the job, the combination of strong pressure to perform with greater interdependence and shared accountability is probably straining your relationships.

Most people don’t have the mindset or the skills to deal with this high pressure, inter-dependent working style.

In the absence of candid communication, effective feedback, and productive conflict, issues go underground, you grit your teeth and carry on…but trust is a casualty.

Is it really as bleak as this? Probably not for most people and hopefully not for you. But it’s an important reminder that there is a high cost to our new business environment.

Continuous change means you have very little that is solid to hold on to. If you can’t trust in your teammates, if you can’t count on your manager, and if you have no certainty that your leaders will do the right things, who can you trust?

Further Reading

One Thing you can Do to Repair Trust that is Damaged

What do I do if my Teammate Doesn’t Trust Me?

The Surprising Source of Most Trust Issues

Written by

NYT Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, Ph.D. Organizational Psychology, Conflict Doctor

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