Workplace trust comes from work & being useful to the team. Not from sharing deep secrets from your past
Working with an executive management team, I was surprised by a dinner discussion around trust.
The manager, Manuel, shared an experience he had during his days on a sports team. The team is sitting in a circle sharing moments of profound impact in their lives. Each person was sharing painful stories about abuse, death, and pain; he said, “It was like each story was more open and more painful than the last. This deep sharing impact creates trust in a work team.”
Another manager, Sharon, said out loud, “That’s bullshit. A bunch of men in a room trying to outdo each other with horror stories doesn’t create trust. Getting your work done and being sufficiently competent builds trust.” The discussion continued over bottles of red wine into the night.
I agree with Sharon’s stance on workplace trust.
Trust flows from knowing why this team exists & why these people, plus you are on the team
My concern with the spill your guts, sharing deep secrets method:
- Lacks a clear connection to the work that has to get done
- It creates stereotype bias. He acts that way because his father was an alcoholic and left the family when he was 8
- In western cultures, the stories create an escalation competition. Each person wants a more heartbreaking story
- Even if you and I share tragic stories, work still has to get done. If I do not complete a task on time and you have to pick up my work … you have lost trust in my ability
- It makes managers and co-workers into psychologists
- Few organizations or managers can deal with the trauma that comes from having to be re-victimized by sharing that trauma with a room full of people who you need to see and work with daily.
How does an executive management team develop trust?
- A shared understanding of why this team is together
- A shared understanding of where this team is going and the boundaries of the teamwork
- A shared understanding of why each person is on this team at this time
- Each team member shares how the team can support them to achieve their personal goals
- The team creates a communication process to let the team know when each member feels overloaded or dissonance with the team. Overload happens with too many work projects or just too much for the person to handle at that time. Inconsistency can occur from the person losing focus or the team making changes that may not support the individual’s goals
- When a team member starts to feel bored or burned-out from the team’s work, they have the chance to talk and find a way to recommit to the team’s purpose.
It may not sound as profound as we sat in a room and cried … I trust these people. But, workplace trust comes from workplace results and systems-that-drive useful behaviors.