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Trust – Will You Catch Me if I Catch You?

I love the trust game. And have you ever played it at a team-building event? No one wants to do it. And why is that? Because people don’t trust that their colleagues will catch them.

So what does this say about corporate culture and whether trust exists? A culture of trust isn’t just important between colleagues, but between the company and the employee as well.

Culture is the unspoken rules of the environment. It’s how your company runs despite what it says in the employee manual or in the press releases. While there can be many components to an organization’s culture, trust seems to be a driving component of how relationships are maintained and, as a result, how business is done. If you don’t understand what is driving relationships in your organization, you risk existing outside the sphere of influence, working hard, accomplishing tasks, and wondering why your work is not being acknowledged or rewarded.

As with any relationship, the dynamics of a workplace has spoken and unspoken rules of interaction. There is the clear spoken structure found in the org chart or what you learn from new hire orientation. And then there’s the unspoken way of how things work — which is defined by the culture.

According to Christian Baldia, president and founder of Constellation SAS, a global management consulting firm, there are three types of trust that impact the function of work relationships:

COMPETENCE: It is the trust you have in the person who has the skill, the wherewithal, and the motivation to get the job done. That’s the person who can make things happen. You may not like or get along well with that person, but if you want to move the needle on a project, you trust that this is the person to do it.

BENEVOLENCE: It is trust in the person who has good intentions toward you. They will look out for you and bring you information that will protect you or advance your goals. You know that when you’re not in the room, this person will not undermine you. They are going to have your back.

INTEGRITY: This type of trust is similar to benevolence but is really driven by moral character. You know this person always operates with integrity no matter who is involved and regardless of how they feel about them. They will always operate according to their principles.

These types of trust intersect and influence how we interact with our co-workers and how relationships formulate. “If you want to get things done in an organization, you need to understand how these connections work and how trust works or you are going to find yourself left out of the loop—no matter what your qualifications are, no matter what your educational background is,” Baldia says. “If you don’t understand, you will find yourself reaching a plateau in your career.” [Source: The 3 Types of Trust You Need in the Workplace, Black Enterprise]

Trust is a Business-critical Issue

Some of the demonstrated effects of trust, disengagement and diminished wellbeing are:

  • High-trust organisations provide three times the total return to shareholders than do organisations with low trust
  • Engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their organisation
  • Engaged employees are 20% more productive

Assess Your Own Culture

Are you encouraging employees to be motivated and productive by showing that you trust them? Take Unum’s quiz to see if there’s more you can do…

  1. Are employees allowed to work flexible hours or from home?
    a) Yes. By giving workers a degree of control over their working hours and location you are showing them you trust them.
    b ) No. It might be worth reconsidering your policy on flexible working. People need to feel trusted in their working environment if they are to perform at their peak. Trusting people to manage their own workloads can help boost their performance.
  2. Do you offer staff opportunities for further training and development?
    a) Yes. Research has shown that employees who feel challenged are often more productive.
    b) No. You may wish to assess the training opportunities you offer. The workplace is constantly evolving and your workers’ skills need regularly updating to ensure they are keeping pace.
  3. Do you have a system which allows employees to provide feedback or put their ideas forward?
    a) Yes. Listening to people’s views in the workplace makes them feel recognized and appreciated.
    b) No. If workers feel unable to air their views then they feel unrecognized and threatened, and their performance is affected, introducing a system where they can feed back on company issues and make suggestions could help boost morale and trust levels.
  4. Are job roles clearly defined?
    a) Yes. If workers have a clear sense of purpose they are more likely to be engaged and productive.
    b) No. Creating a clearly defined career structure with all job roles on it can bring really benefits. If workers are unsure what their contribution is, they can feel threatened and their performance is negatively impacted.

Rate your response:

Mostly yeses: You are clearly taking strides to build a trusting relationship between you and your employees, but there’s always room for improvement. Take a look at the eight drivers of trust in the Jacobs Model for building trust and identify any areas you can build on.

Some yeses, some nos: You are taking some steps to create an atmosphere of trust in the workplace but there are still some changes you could make. Do you offer flexible working? Is there a training structure in place?

Mostly nos: Building an atmosphere of trust is essential to boosting employee motivation and productivity. For a good starting point, see the eight drivers of trust depicted in the Jacobs Model infographic below.

A Great Model for Building Trust

There are many methods a company can use to build trust within its culture.  But the Jacobs model, devised by employee engagement expert Susanne Jacobs, identifies eight intrinsic drivers of trust, which, when combined with a number of environmental factors, can have a significant impact on employees’ wellbeing.

The 8 Intrinsic Drivers of Trust: Belong and Connect, Voice and Recognition, Significance and Position, Fairness, Learn and Challenge, Choice and Autonomy, Security and Certainty, and Purpose

As shown in the infographic below, when each of the drivers is satisfied, companies will have positive outcomes: engagement, energy release, boosted well-being, and performance.

The Jacobs Model for Building Workplace Trust

The Jacobs Model for Building Workplace Trust

[ Source: Employee motivation: Is trust the answer?, Unum ]

Having a culture where trust exists is crucial to business success. Trust forms the foundation for effective internal communications, attracting and retaining employees, and engaging employees so they are more apt to use  discretionary effort — the extra effort that people voluntarily invest in work to go above and beyond.

So go ahead. Play the trust game. I promise, I will catch you.

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