It’s no big revelation that trust is the gas the drives the car when it comes to relationships; without it, you may roll to a dismal halt. Families depend on it; marriages are built on it. Pretty much any kind of partnership requires it, and without, the foundation of nearly any relationship is seriously weakened. It’s no different at work. But defining trust in the workplace it is a little different.
The meaning of trust hasn’t shifted. But the nature of how trust functions has. How? Geographically, demographically, even culturally, how we view trust and what it means has evolved, as have the rituals we use to build it. The same kinds of activities that might have raised eyebrows and closed ranks in the past can have the opposite effect now.
1) Accept that innovation will happen.
There’s a great lesson to be learned from Uber (again): how a rogue group of employees bypassed the workflow channels to create a new product. Since there was no time to bring a new idea (hashed out during an after-hours “jam session) to life during regular business hours, they created and organized it during a two-day workathon over the weekend. Was it elitist? Nope. Part of the impromptu quick-start of the product was that it could not be without the input of everyone in a range of departments and across functions. It was an open-minded, “Hey, how can we do this?” approach. Is this sneaky? Not if it’s part of company culture.
2) Value individual autonomy.
Studies like Deloitte’s on culture and employee engagement found that 87 percent of organizations surveyed cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges. And 12 percent of employees are more motivated by work passion than career ambition — a number that will surely rise. The new workplace has to include self-motivation as a driving force behind employee engagement — which means (no matter the geography, whether digital or physical) that employees are given the freedom to grow, learn, and push themselves. The give stems from a workplace that trusts its talent. Companies that don’t weave this into their own culture are risking a higher rate of attrition than those who do.
3) Admit that humans have emotions.
Trust is not just a marketing slogan or a word on money. Lack of trust can dredge up a storm of emotions in anyone, from a spouse to an employee. Yes, we should all try to take the high road, as my colleague and friend Tamara McCleary points out. But in the workplace, the onus is with management to be able to lead with emotional intelligence. If an employee has an issue and it’s bungled due to some expectation of acting professional, at least these two things will happen: 1) resentment and 2) opacity.
4) Understand that we need to be friends.
A recent survey showed that groups of friends were able to perform tasks and make decisions better than a group of strangers. In terms of teamwork, being friends does indeed keep the car moving. But if we’re increasingly isolated due to changing work environments, far more telecommuting, shorter expected stints with an employer, and a host of other factors, how can we forge productive, inspiring, team-building friendships? We might take a cue from companies who make employee interaction and activities an active part of workplace culture.
Which once again, leads me back to that exercise in cooperation, the Google CoBike — that on-campus, multi-seated bicycle, which by now is part of Silicon Valley lore. If you want people to feel valued, work together, and trust each other, then make sure your workplace values people above all else. Trust will work wonders where nothing else will: increase engagement, productivity, communication, and decrease attrition. Trust me on this one.
Image credit : Shutterstock
A version of this post was first published on Forbes on 12/12/15