Without Trust, Teams Rust: How To Prevent Relationship Corrosion In The Workplace

There are three areas where we can have trust or lack thereof. The first and most powerful is trust in ourselves. The second is whether we trust and feel safe in the workplace. And finally, the third is whether there is trust in the relationship with the other person.

The higher levels of trust in each of those areas, the stronger the ability to navigate conflict and focus on solutions vs. defensive maneuvers. So many people reference the need for trust but have a hard time establishing it in the first place or repairing trust when it’s been damaged.

Some tips that can help you navigate this tricky topic are listed below.

1.    Learn to trust your instincts and resourcefulness. 

Building trust with ourselves has a lot to do with positive self-talk, proper self-care and practicing the skill of self-reflection. But this is a journey of discovery. This requires us to step outside of our comfort zones, go boldly into the unknown and watch yourself tackle new situations. The more we do this the more we are less reliant on the external environment needing to be a certain way because we know we will rise to the occasion and figure things out. This is what leads to self-confidence, the byproduct of trusting ourselves.

2.    Leverage a growth mindset.

If you view mistakes or unexpected results as an opportunity to learn and evolve, you will be more likely to embody the above first step. You have to be able to trust yourself to see the opportunity in your learning process. If you know you will rake yourself over the coals, you will never fully embrace the journey. If you can’t trust yourself to show compassion when you hit a wall or drop the ball, then everyone will end up looking threatening to you. How can you trust others to make room for you if you won’t even do that?

3.    Intentionally invest in building trust with new and established relationships. 

The concept of trust with another person can be difficult to nail down. However, there are key areas that people tend to look for when gauging trust levels. Being aware of these areas helps make the whole trust building venture more tangible. Joe Jotkowitz, managing partner and executive coach at The Executive Advisory, LLC., shares the top four areas that people base their workplace trust levels on.

a.    How much do you care? Jotkowitz emphasizes that “Workplace trust is still personal.” This is about how much the other person trusts you care about their needs and experiences. You may be passionate about your work but if I can’t trust you to take me into account when making decisions, I’m going to have a hard time letting down my guard or fully delegating important resources, work or decisions to you.

b.    How capable are you? This has a two-fold element to it. On one hand, I’m gauging whether you have the subject matter expertise to do the job. On the other hand, and a bit more nuanced, is how much do I trust you can handle whatever pressure comes with the job? This is about being to work through the unknown, take the heat from the higher-ups and navigate stressful deadlines. If you are constantly panicking over what may or may not happen, I know I can’t trust you to do what’s needed when it matters most.

c.    How reliable are you? It’s one thing to care and be good at what you do but it’s a whole other thing to know you will do what you say you’ll do. If you are someone who tends to people please or gets excited over multiple ideas, you could be over-promising and under-delivering. This is a recipe for destroying trust with others. Learning how to manage expectations and be careful with what you commit to can ensure that you are experienced as a reliable member to any team.

d.    How authentically do you show up? Some of us have been taught that it’s safer to show up uber professionally, which really comes off as guarded and distant. Or we may say one thing to appease the person we are speaking to but another to the next person. People want to get a sense of our real values because it makes it easier to trust they can predict how we might behave and the directions of the decisions we’ll make. Not knowing where we truly stand leaves an uneasy feeling with others.

4.    Frequently discuss the unique needs of one another when it comes to building trust.

 Though the above four categories give you a starting point, everyone may value and interpret them differently. Openly discussing what you each need in the above four categories can set an excellent foundation for a new relationship, fortify a well-established relationship or help repair a damaged one.

5.    Participate in building a safe work environment for everyone. 

“One of the ways to earn trust, is to give it first. Think of your trust as an investment. Invest wisely, and you will reap returns on your investment,” advises Jotkowitz. Some investments you can make include:

a.    Don’t connect via gossip. This is a poor way to build a bond with others but one of the most common ways that people bond is over disliking the same person. However, you are teaching people that if you are crossed by or disappointed in another person, you will attack them. “Attack” may seem like a strong word, but gossiping does just that. It attacks the reputation and sense of safety for all involved, in particular, the person being gossiped about.

b.    Don’t get offended by defensive behaviours. When people finger point, take more credit than they deserve or throw others under the bus they are demonstrating the behaviours of someone who is drowning in their insecurity. If you were a lifeguard helping a ‘drowner’ you wouldn’t get offended by their attempts to drown you while saving themselves. However, you would be careful as to how you approached them since they clearly are making fear-based, panicked decisions. This isn’t about ignoring passive-aggressive or unprofessional behaviour. It’s about you not getting sucked into the negativity, fear and insecurity with them.

c.    Learn how to engage in respectful debate. One of the best ways to build trust is the ability to sit and truly take in different viewpoints, consider them and look for opportunities to integrate varying ideas. Too often, we attack the person for not thinking like us or critiquing the way we do things. We make it personal. Instead, demonstrate that you value a truly diverse work environment and just because you don’t agree on things or approach work differently doesn’t mean we are against one another. I don’t have to be against you to be for something different than what you stand for.

Trust is too important to leave to chance. Investing in building it for yourself, your relationships and your chosen work environment can have immeasurable returns. Jotkowitz advises, “Give the benefit of doubt to establish and maintain trust. Most people don’t intentionally break trust. And many times, they didn’t even realize they broke it. But if someone breaks trust with you, address it. Otherwise, it’s a heavy burden you bear, not them.”

-Forbes,Getty Images

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