How to Overcome Mistrust & Tension in the Workplace

How does lack of trust affect the workplace culture? The experts at Forbes compare it to a virus that can make everyone act sick and dysfunctional. The problem often starts with company leadership and can negatively affect aspects of the organization such as values, attitudes and personalities.

When there is a climate of mistrust, employees perform the bare minimum needed to get work done and spend their free time looking for new jobs. Organizations like this fail to thrive unless they correct the problem.

Causes of Lack of Trust in the Workplace

According to the Society for Human Resource Management writers, company executives often only focus on revenues and pleasing the CEO. Actions that lead to a lack of trust include breaking promises, withholding crucial information and micromanaging. Commitments to employees and long-term values are pushed aside, and staff members feel let down, insulted, and concerned about job security. Employees need to be given more leeway and the ability to make their own decisions because enforcing strict compliance to rigid rules (other than for safety reasons) can be suffocating and counterintuitive to innovation.

A failure to communicate also paves the way for mistrust. When leaders are afraid to share bad news, everyone is left to wonder what’s happening. Employees value honesty, even if the information is concerning. Open discussions are essential for companies to thrive, even when they are unpleasant; conflict is vital for change and growth. Also, you should know that it takes time to build trust; don’t assume that the bond is there from the get-go. Learning to listen and resisting defensiveness are steps toward becoming more trustful and accepting.

Workplace Lack of Trust Examples

It is up to company leaders to establish trusting environments, and one way to do this is to delegate responsibility. Bosses who constantly check employees ruin workflow and autonomy, which affects production and erodes worker confidence and accountability. For example, Manager X asks Assistant Y to write up a report, but X then takes over the job and completes most of the work. Since X didn’t trust Y to do it, Y’s self-confidence plummets, and a downward spiral begins.

Another example could be Company A1’s promise to purchase ergonomic chairs for the entire office because several employees complained about back pain. Months go by with no new chairs, and even though a few people have inquired, the responses are vague. This isn’t the first time it’s happened either, and now the staff doesn’t trust the leadership and feels as though they are not valued. Consequently, they care less about doing a good job for the company.

Workplace Lack of Trust Solutions

The writers at About Leaders list the signs of a workplace that lacks trust: Employees are hesitant to share information, exhibit poor work performance, spread office gossip, show a lack of employee/employer eye contact, or experience a lack of motivation and participation in company events. Effective leaders can take charge by implementing new procedures to build a culture of trust, which they can initiate in a companywide meeting. These leaders can set up an open communications policy with no consequences for negative feedback. When employees feel encouraged to speak up, they can provide helpful insight and create positive changes and innovations.

Another creative idea is to have “shadow the leader” days. Bosses can invite every team member to spend one day with the manager. What a great way to let them see the bigger picture and find more ways to contribute to company goals! Workers can also be invited to participate in companywide projects to improve communication, with rewards for contributing new ideas. Finally, employees like to feel as though they are appreciated, so reward them regularly with spot bonuses, fun company events, and other incentives to show them how much they are valued.