In my recent consulting with several different companies, I have found a lack of trust at the root of many of their problems. Sometimes, the lack of trust is for other co-workers and other times it's a lack of trust in the company or administration.
We have been taught to believe trust is a commodity that is to be earned by others. Once they have passed certain tests, then we feel safe to extend our trust. I would like to entertain the idea that trust can be a verb, rather than a noun. It's a choice you make and says much more about you than it does the person to whom you are extending your trust.
When I posed the question to people, do you want to be able to trust your co-workers or administration, they all respond in the affirmative. They wanted to be able to trust but did not believe that others deserved it.
This begged the question, "What would you have to give up in order to trust others?" There were a variety of answers to this question but the majority of them centered around the idea of self-protection. If you were to trust, then you would look foolish. If you were to trust, then you would be hurt again. If you were to trust, then you would have somehow lose something if the other person disappointed you.
I know there is an expression that goes something like this, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me," however, I'm not sure I think subscribing to that belief system is helpful in the workplace.
Because my model of Empowered Leadership is an Inside Out model, if you want more trust in your life, you have to be more trusting and more worthy of trust. You can not get from others what you do not possess in yourself.
Let's look closely at this trust issue and ask some difficult questions. If you are feeling the need to protect yourself somehow, why is that? What are you afraid of? What's the worst thing that can happen? Will that really be so bad?
If you are looking inside out, then you must ask yourself, "Am I a trustworthy person? Do others realize that I have integrity and can be trusted? Do I extend trust to others?"
Now, of course, I am not talking about continually putting yourself in situations with the same person who has proved a lack of trustworthiness. If you work with someone who attempted to pass off your work as his own, then you may be foolish to afford him another opportunity. However, is it possible for you to extend trust until someone proves he or she does not deserve it, rather than starting with no trust until he or she jumps through the necessary hoops to earn your trust?
It comes down to deciding what kind of person you want to be. Do you want to be a person who believes in the general good of humankind or do you want to be guarded, self-protective and suspicious? You get to decide how you want to operate in the world. Do not allow others to dictate this for you. Take charge and be the person you want to be.
If you find yourself in a situation with someone where trust has become an issue, make it a priority to investigate the situation. Go to the person, ask for and really listened to his or her account of what occurred. It's very possible that you do not have all the accurate information.
What I know is that there will only be limited teamwork or no teamwork at all without trust. If you are in an environment where you believe it is impossible to trust others, ask yourself if that is really where you want to be working. It may become necessary to reevaluate your employment decisions.
But the bottom line is, if you want to trust those with what you work, then do it. Figure it out. Extend your trust. If your trust is violated, then that says a whole lot more about the other person than you. If you understand Inside Out Thinking, you know that you can handle those situations because you do not let other's behavior shake your foundation. You know who you are and are solid in it.
If you are in an organization where trust has become a big issue, it will likely take some time to heal the situation. However, one thing I know for sure is that it will not get better without action. If you keep doing what you've always done, you will continue to get what you've always gotten. It's time to make a change. What do you have to lose?