Trust is broken. There used to be a time when you had trusted news sources or had someone you could count on. When you picked up that newspaper from your hometown or reached out to that friend or colleague, there was comfort in knowing that the news was valid or you could trust your team. You read the editorials and opinions sections to see a different point of view. There was the columnist you loved to hate and disagreed with every word, but you respected the opinion and trusted the news source.
And then the blogs came in. And the online news sites. And the social media sites. Now everyone is a journalist or an expert. Everyone discredits the other. We are obsessed with this phenomenon called "fake news." Now when we read something we don't agree with, we assume it's fake. We don't take the time to put ourselves in the other person's shoes and see their point of view. We have lost the ability to respectfully disagree. At times, it feels all hope is lost and there is no way to regain the trust we once coveted. All is not lost, though, and there is always time to rebuild what we once had.
My good friend, Steve Browne, wrote a great post about trust and how HR professionals must give trust. I love this approach and we would all be in a better place if we gave trust in our lives. There are many people and organizations that have an open trusting environment. There is openness and honesty and employees care for one another and want to see each other succeed.
While I agree with this, in spirit, I also realize that trust can be broken and the lack of trust is the major downfall of any team. Our HR team spent a lot of time, last year, learning about trust in teams. We spent some time with Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” I read this book over 10 years ago and forgot how practical and useful it is for leader effectiveness. Per Lencioni, the base of every dysfunctional team is the lack of trust. Without it, teams will not be able to perform at their optimal level. Without trust, teams struggle to have healthy conflict, they lack commitment and avoid accountability. They put their own persona goals, feelings, and needs ahead of the team.
I have had some instances where trust has been broken and it has taken a long time to repair and recover. Some never recovered because one party was not willing to put in the time to work on it. When trust is absent, we make the decision to move on from jobs because trust cannot be repaired. And when there is no trust, communication breaks down. Performance drops. Stress levels rise.
If you find yourself on a team where trust has been broken, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Why did this happen? Was this a one-time thing due to factors like a lack of information or miscommunication? Everyone deserves a second chance. Is this the third or fourth? Are both sides committed to repair this trust? The good news is, trust can be restored and teams can get to a place where they are performing at a high level. It may take some time to reexamine priorities and expectations, but it can be done. If you are struggling to find some ways to regain trust within your team, reach out to your trusty HR person to help you. I’m sure they have been through this before. Are you willing to do the work?