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Why trust is almost non-existent in the workplace.

The issue of trust crops up in nearly every presentation I give on leadership. The leader’s concerns commonly are, “I feel like I cannot trust my employee,” or “My employee doesn’t seem to trust me.”

Some leaders wonder if this lack of mutual trust is similar to the chicken vs. the egg dilemma. Which came first: untrustworthy leaders or untrustworthy employees?

I believe that is the wrong way to look at this problem!

In the last two weeks, I saw three different survey results about the workplace.
1) A survey asked: Have you ever canceled a vacation because of your workload? 39% responded: “Yes, more than once.” 13% said: “Yes, once.”
2) A survey asked: Do you feel appreciated at work? 63% responded: “No, never. 30% said: Sometimes.”
3) Robert Half is an organization that keeps a pulse on the workplace and they reported this finding: 40% of professionals say that their managers never discuss their career paths with them.

At first glance, these three stats may seem random, and yet they tell me a story and explain one reason why there is widespread mistrust in the workplace: the severe lack of meaningful interaction.

Today, the pace of work is intense and the amount of work is overwhelming. Long hours, overflowing inboxes, never-ending projects, and decentralized teams means that everyone—leader and employee alike—have their head down and no time to look up and connect on a personal, face-to-face basis.

To add to this problem, over 70% of people in a leadership role are reticent about fulfilling their leadership obligation, which usually means that the leader would rather work on data and systems that work on people and relationships, and a narrative of neglect emerges.

I hope you can see this cosmic void of communication and caring that is missing from most workplaces. I offer five solutions that you can use to increase the level of meaningful interactions in your workplace.

First, make time to know your colleagues, employees, and supervisors on a personal level. Schedule and attend events that have nothing to do with work. Employees who participate in fun events outside of work such as disc golf, cycling, laser tag and similar activities develop strong bonds that carry into their work with each other.

Second, engage in more interactive face-to-face communications. Instead of relying 100% on email, use video chats, actual and virtual meetings, site visits, and any methods that bring people together to accomplish something meaningful. It works wonders to bring about cooperation and camaraderie.

Third, bring emotion back into your workplace. While your work may rely on technology and data to get things done and solve problems, those items do not foster healthy relationships. Paying attention to, honoring, and talking about ‘soft squishy’ stuff such as workplace culture, feelings, concerns, fears, dreams, and aspiration feeds our souls and our unquenchable need to connect and be appreciated.

Fourth, allow everyone time to shed the stresses and energy drains of work. Let people go home early, take vacations and time off on holidays and weekends. People who do not engage in play and laughter and who do not take frequent opportunities to relax and decompress suffer and burn out faster and sooner.

Fifth, get everyone on the team and in the organization focused on ways to simplify the work and reduce the amount. Humans have this need to stay busy to avoid feeling bored, but this contributes to making things complex and overlooking the simplest and easiest way to accomplish something. Yet we are smart and know that there is always a better way to accomplish something. Your task is to empower everyone to find that simpler way.

Be doing all five of these things, you will bring about a level of trust within your work environment. People will feel appreciated. Everyone will have time to take scheduled vacations.

However, someone must lead the way. Stop being reluctant and be the one who shows others the way to add cooperation into the workplace.


Ron Rael Leadership Provocateur, is a keynote speaker, consultant, and author.

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