3 Reasons Why People Don't Trust You At Work

Ross Chapman
Ross Chapman
Head of Etch Sprints 17 Feb 20206 minutes read

Trust is essential in a thriving organisation. A business that is able to foster a strong sense of trust can experience a number of benefits including increased productivity, improved morale and the ability to create better outcomes a team, rather than individuals.

According to a 2017 scaled US study, researchers found that people at high-trust companies experience 74% less stress, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement and 29% more satisfaction in their lives.

Trust in teams

Patrick Lencioni, the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, offers further insight (and solutions) to help in the absence of trust. He believes trust can be absent due to people “unwilling to be vulnerable within the group.” Global consultant and founder Angela Kambouris further explores this notion by writing:

“Being vulnerable is the boldest act of business leadership” - Angela Kambouris

She goes on to say that “to build trust, business leaders must lead with a power of transparency, accountability and vulnerability.” When mistakes are made, they must be admitted to openly, completely and with the learnings shared to help others.

With this in mind, why do so many teams suffer from a lack of trust?

1. You're not trusting others

Ever asked a favour from a colleague only to have them fail to deliver? That's disappointing, and a normal reaction would be to not ask for help again, but trusting relationships at work leads to greater productivity, performance, and morale.

One of the best ways to start gaining trust from your colleagues is to actually give trust first.

What I like about this, is that it's an action. Trust everyone you interact with initially, and then, in turn, earn their trust over time.

The General Social Survey, which is published every other year in the United States, tracked trust and happiness and what they found was that trust indeed positively correlated with happiness. It's the basis for much of the positive environment you want to create in your workplace and is the necessary precursor for:

On the Lencioni Trust Pyramid, which visually represents the priority of the five dysfunctions, the absence of trust is at the foundation. The team needs to know each other well so they can start to lean on each other. Once they do, giving and receiving constructive feedback can be employed and trust can be built.

And remember, trust takes time to build.

Opening up

2. You never deliver what you promise

Ever catch yourself saying "wouldn't it be great if we.." or when creating a new landing page, starting by writing "coming soon" in your copy? It's fine if you back it up with action, but if these ideas go unfilled, you're going to start communicating that you can't deliver - to your team, but also to your customers.

Look at the story of HS2 and its escalating costs. Change is inevitable, but putting out intent with delayed or no action will likely end in embarrassment and a harder path to success.

Consistently showing up, consistently delivering and consistently communicating helps build trust in the people around you. They can see that you are a doer, and they, in turn, can trust you with their next project or task or answer a question. Encapsulated perfectly by Jayson DeMers:

"Regretting action is better than regretting inaction."

3. Share your honest opinion

Probably the most unique thing about you is your opinion. People can be shy of expressing their opinions and that can come from insecurity or a fixation on "being wrong" in the past.

Another quote from Gary Vaynerchuk to set the tone:

"If you express your authentic point of view and disagree with the people "above you", you might "lose" with many of the leaders within your company and it might stifle your growth within the organization. But you'll win over the smart people in the company, especially when they leave and move on to other organizations."

Stand for something or stand for nothing: Don't be a fence-sitter! Opinions matter and opinions help drive the discussion. Even if you're proven wrong, you'll learn why - and that's a tremendous benefit. It helps in owning a problem and the efforts to solving it. Adding more opinions can increase the creativity of solving it, improving the likelihood of higher impact, lower-cost solutions. Most teams will follow a middling path, but an enthusiastic opinion can raise an approach or solution that heightens the success of an effort.

You can have a well-formed opinion by being well-read, even if that's by listening to a podcast or watching YouTube videos. Generally, we all want our opinions heard and we want to be liked, but sharing your honest opinion is what makes you, you.

"1,500 jets have flown in here to hear David Attenborough speak about how we're wrecking the planet"

Don't forget, you can have strong opinions and still be a kind person.

This links very well to my work consulting teams and running Sprints with them. The idea of Groupthink, where "nice people and not-so-nice people conform to certain behaviours and opinions" because it gives them increased social acceptance is a setup we have removed in the Design Sprint.

Groupthink encourages mediocrity and results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. We use concepts like "working alone, sharing together" and employ roles such as The Decider, to ensure that it's not just the process that's being followed, but the process is allowing us to make even better decisions. Discover more about our frameworks for better teamwork.

Next story

This is the first in a five-part series, where we will dive into the common problems teams experience when working together and how to remedy these to unlock business value and resilience.

Over the series, we'll cover Lencioni's five dysfunctions :

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