Morale in your workplace is established or dismantled by activities and attitudes that either generate or undermine trust in relationships.
Weak trust creates poor communication, blame, and slower response times. Increasing trust improves direct communication, teamwork, and creativity.
Ask yourself and your team appropriate questions to consider whether the lack of trust is a significant roadblock to getting your job done. Here are ten such questions to evaluate your workplace trust quotient.
Do we care about Solution – or Blame?
When things go wrong – and they will – do we avoid being held accountable by finding somebody else to blame? Or are we wise enough to be sure that we’ve included every team member in searching for the solution? The most qualified expert for solving any problem is the person with the problem. Blame puts that person on the defense rather than in a position to help the team.
Make it clear that blame is not relevant. Blame is always in the past and we’d rather be concerned with the present and the future. What can we do now to create a better, blame-free future?
Is Disrespect used for Humor?
Making fun of others guarantees low trust. An object of laughter feels no trust with their team. Participants in the laughter also have little trust, fearing they may be the next target. A trust-building response when laughter is directed toward a team member is, “There’s nothing funny about another person’s difficulty. What are we doing to help?”
Is inappropriate behavior tolerated?
Offensive actions, language, and jokes, along with cute-but-insulting desk signs and T-shirt messages, have no place in the workplace. If policies about harassment aren’t enforced, anybody in fear of being harassed by even one person loses trust with the entire organization.
Are standards followed equally?
We sometimes assume that everybody understands standards of performance and behavior, and that’s not always true. To be effective, standards must be clearly understood and frequently reinforced.
Standards apply equally to all. It destroys trust when pals of the ‘privileged few’ don’t have to adhere to the rules or are given greater privilege. Interpersonal relationships are important, but they won’t stand the test of time and pressure if they are based on exceptions to meeting the standards.
Is leadership concentrated or distributed?
Do the same people always get leadership roles? Establishing trust means trusting everybody on the team to take leadership. Each person should have an aspect of team success that depends on their leadership.
When only a handful of leaders establish team direction, those with no leadership responsibility are likely to let performance slide. When everybody has something to lead, they understand and support other leaders.
Do people ‘disappear’ – mysteriously?
Job security is a major trust factor. When standards have been clearly set and job security openly depends on meeting those standards, the workplace can have high trust. When somebody must be removed from your work force, it must be for consistent reasons and shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Whose door is closed?
You don’t need a door to have a ‘closed’ door. Everybody has a right to designate uninterrupted work time and a duty to maintain regular available time.
An ‘open door’ policy that’s defeated by a ‘don’t bother me’ attitude not only eliminates a source of information, but it sends a low trust message. A good way to demonstrate an open door is to not be behind it— frequently visit people in their territory.
Where’s the gossip fence?
There are neighborhoods where you see two sets if lips flapping across the back fence and know they’re gossiping is about somebody not present. If you have a gossip fence in your break room, parking lot, or the resident gossip’s office, every syllable of gossip about a team member weakens the trust structure. If something isn’t worth saying to somebody’s face, it isn’t worthy of saying at all.
Gossip is a temptation that must be rejected by team agreement and then resisted by every team member, with the support of frequent reminders on the team’s commitment to trust.
Are special circumstances considered?
In most situations, trust requires consistency. Everybody is treated the same— except when circumstances dictate otherwise. Special treatment of the boss’s pals will destroy trust in a hurry, but special treatment under appropriate conditions – which can range from time for education to taking care of family – will build trust as long as the treatment isn’t abused and would be available to others in similar circumstances.
The team will appreciate a caring attitude and will close ranks to maintain trust by getting the job done together when somebody has a legitimate reason for an exception.
Is laughter allowed?
A humorless environment defeats relationship-building and lowers the trust level. No job description reads, “This position requires a solemn demeanor and refusal to laugh.” A brief laugh break results in higher productivity, quality, and creativity. General, clean, unhurtful humor is the bedrock of good relationships, and comfortable interpersonal relationships are the foundation of trust in the workplace.
From laughter to shared leadership, from no blame to no gossip, these are ten checkpoints for trust in your workplace, and the encouragement to focus on improving any that don’t get a whole-hearted positive check mark.
To build trust requires setting high standards and providing frequent positive reinforcement. The reward is a stronger team— a team that TRUSTS!