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What’s Keeping You from Earning Trust at Work

Earning trust at work is absolutely essential for career success. In environments or relationships where trust levels are low, it’s difficult to get things done quickly and consistently. When we mistrust others, we don’t delegate. We don’t accept their ideas or opinions. We have more unproductive conflict and less commitment to group decisions.

If you’ve had suspicions about others and don’t fully trust them, the end result is that your own job is harder than it has to be. You’re moving slower, doing more, and feeling frustrated by the added stress. 

magnet1Similarly, if others have not fully trusted you, they’ve withheld work assignments. They haven’t shared information. They’ve been slow to consider your input. 

Sadly, so much of this mistrust is founded in vague feelings and misunderstandings. That’s why it’s important to understand all 12 Dimensions of Trust. In this CONNECT2Lead series, we’re examining each dimension to help you eradicate those vague doubts and build stronger trust in all your workplace relationships.  

Trust Is Based on Some Surprising Factors 

That’s not fair! 

You’re honest. You have integrity. How could anyone possibly mistrust you?

With 11 other dimensions of trust, there are LOTS of ways you could accidentally and unknowingly violate someone’s trust. It happens to the best of us, and it’s probably happened to you, too. 

Others feel exactly the same way you do. When you signal that you don’t completely trust them, they believe “That’s not fair!” and figure something must be wrong with you… After all, they consider themselves to be honest and operating with integrity. Like you (and like most!), they aren’t aware that there are 11 other dimensions of trust in play. 

As we’ve covered in past posts, people assess others’ trustworthiness in these 12 ways:

  1. Do you display honesty and integrity in all your interactions? 
  2. Are you competent and able to reliably do the work you’re expected to do?
  3. Are you consistent and predictable in your actions? Do people know what to expect from you?
  4. Have you exhibited loyalty to others and to the organization?
  5. Do you make yourself easily available to others? Are you approachable and knowable?
  6. Have you been fair in the way you treat and evaluate others?
  7. Is your decision-making transparent, understandable, and rational?
  8. Do you follow through on the promises and commitments you’ve made?
  9. Are you open and receptive to feedback? Are you open to others’ ideas and opinions?
  10. Do you handle sensitive information with discretion? Can you keep a secret?
  11. When you deliver feedback, do you do it with constructive intent? Are you helpful?
  12. Can you offer an accurate self-assessment of your own limitations and capabilities? 

Different people prioritize these dimensions differently. Some put high value, for example, in whether or not others are helpful and constructive when disagreeing or critiquing them. Others are less concerned with others’ intent but place more value on whether or not someone is competent. To assess yourself on the 12 Dimensions of Trust, download this free tool from People First Productivity Solutions.  

We all tend to be more diligent in the same dimensions that we personally value. If you’re someone who strongly values following through on promises and commitments, you’ll hold others to a higher standard in this dimension. Likewise, if you don’t have a strong sense of loyalty, your expectations of others will be lower in this dimension. 

Some of these dimensions of trust are surprising, at least at first. 

Availability is one that dimension that few people instantly associate with trust. It becomes easier to see the connection when you think about the people in your life who you do trust. One of the reasons you trust them is that they’re “there for you.” They’re available. 

In personal relationships, a change in physical or emotional availability often leads to breakups. Divorce is common when couples get so caught up in their jobs, children’s activities, and individual pursuits that they neglect to reserve time with each other. They grow apart. A lack of availability fosters a lack of trust, and that contributes to the distance  between them. 

This can happen in the workplace, too. 

An Easy Fix for Earning Trust at Work

A Reader’s Digest article lists nine reasons people are unable to trust their bosses. At the top of the list is “They Have a Closed-Door Policy.” Psychologist Nikki Martinez says “You might not be able to trust your boss if they don’t seem approachable. It makes you feel like you can’t go to them with questions and concerns.” 

Managers express similar concerns about employees who avoid as many team meetings as possible, prefer to work alone, or are not readily available in other ways. 

It’s also natural to slightly mistrust colleagues who are slow to respond, difficult to reach, or seem self-absorbed in their own work and priorities. 

Chances are that all this mistrust is based on the assumption that someone’s lack of availability signals disinterest or a lack of engagement. We leap to conclusions about their motives without considering personality style, cultural influences, work pressures, or simple lack of awareness about how their reserved or guarded behaviors impact others. 

Availability is one of the 12 Dimensions of Trust. Without realizing it, you may be experiencing a breakdown in trust if:

  1. You are perceived as being physically or emotionally unavailable for others. 
  2. You have doubts about a colleague who seems distant, disconnected, or difficult to engage. 
  3. Your remote work location keeps you separate from others.
  4. Another member of the team is remote or distanced from the group somehow.
  5. Extremely demanding work or schedules keep people from connecting, even briefly, for check-ins and human-to-human encounters. 

This is one of the Dimensions of Trust that can easily and inadvertently occur without anyone realizing what the issue really is. Oftentimes, these situations can continue for extended periods of time. That exacerbates the problem and deepens the divide. 

To avoid letting a lack of availability become the source of workplace mistrust, take these proactive steps:

  • Give people your full attention when meeting with them. No devices, no distractions.
  • Practice listening with empathy. Build listening skills and use them!
  • Carve out time for 1:1 conversations with people that aren’t solely task-focused. 
  • Keep an “open door” policy so people know they can call or stop by any time. If that’s impossible, at least set “office hours” for certain times of the day when you will be available. 
  • Bring people together in virtual or in-person meetings. Have fun together. Do teambuilding activities and have occasional outings together. 
  • Get to know people as individuals, not just by their job functions. 
  • Put PEOPLE first. The paperwork, policies, programs, and tasks will be easier to manage when you’ve got strong teams with high trust. 

To restore trust that has inadvertently been breached by a lack of availability, start by:

  • Acknowledging to yourself and others that trust has been damaged. No need for shame or blame. This is a new awareness and provides an opportunity for a fresh start. 
  • Apologizing to those you’ve been insufficiently available to. 
  • Letting those who haven’t been available to you know the impact. Explain and ask for what you need. No judgment is needed, so keep it neutral. They didn’t know how important this was! 
  • Discussing what each individual needs and how best to meet those needs (including yours). Even small changes make big differences here.
  • Be prepared to start fresh. Don’t hold grudges or make others feel like they’re under a microscope. It takes time to form new habits, so give yourself and others a little grace.

How Availability Also Restores Past Breaches in Other Dimensions of Trust 

If you’ve experienced trust breakdowns that stem from one of the other 12 Dimensions of Trust, here’s some good news. 

Being more available builds trust and resets relationships. Getting reacquainted, reproving yourself, and moving past old offenses requires time together. The longer people avoid each other, the more deeply rooted the mistrust will be. 

It’s been said that nature abhors a vacuum (horror vacui). When people don’t have enough information, they make stuff up in an effort to fill gaps in understanding. Typically, what they make up isn’t favorable about others. 

When you’re not available, you’re creating a vacuum. No matter which of the 12 Dimensions of Trust you’re inadvertently breaching, being more available to others gives you a better offense against anything they might make up. 

For instance, you failed to deliver on a promise. If you’re available, they can ask what happened or you can proactively explain what happened. It will be better than imaginations running wild or assumptions being made.

When you’re available, your behaviors are observable. You’ll have opportunities to demonstrate loyalty, openness, fairness, competence, discretion, consistency and more. When you’re absent or checked out, others won’t be able to see these Dimensions of Trust in action. You won’t get credit for them. 

It’s especially important to spend time with people who haven’t been able to trust you AND those you haven’t been able to trust in the past. It’s the only way to move through breaches in trust and get to a better place.

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