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How to Squash Distrust in the Workplace

All it takes is a little transparency and a whole lot of teamwork, says Judith Glaser.
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It takes only a fraction of a second for the human brain to interpret a threat, and once it does, it's hard to go back. 

Leaders should remember that the next time their staff appears anxious.

All it takes is few mixed signals, a power struggle, or a new addition for distrust to poison a workplace, writes Judith E. Glaser, CEO of Benchmark Communication, in The Harvard Business Review

But there are ways to fight it. 

Here, three shifts you can make today to squash distrust in the workplace: 

Threat to transparency. "Leaders can shift people's thoughts away from threats by fostering an open, transparent environment in which everyone shares and discusses as much as they can about what's really going on," says Glaser. Companies like Dryer's, Edy's Grand Ice Cream, and Pfizer set aside time for staff to talk about pressing issues and concerns--and it's working. 

Uncertainty to understanding. Issues often arise when certain departments don't understand the role of other departments. This can easily be fixed by explaining their roles or allowing employees to work alongside each other, says Glaser. 

Self-interest to shared success. "When you encourage employees to support and do generous things for each other, it creates a virtuous circle of sharing," says Glaser. It should come as no surprise, then, when some of your workers are hesitant to help others for fear that their own work will suffer.

"Although we're hard-wired for self-protection, we're also inherently social, and leaders can make sure that the latter instinct trumps the former by painting a picture of what success will look like if everyone works together," she says. Try creating a cooperative project that encourages workers to build on one another's strengths and you'll see how quickly the walls come down. 

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Jun 5, 2013

JANA KASPERKEVIC | Staff Writer

Jana Kasperkevic is a graduate of Baruch College, City University of New York, where she earned a bachelors degree in Journalism and Political Science. She covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurship for Inc. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, InvestmentNews, Business Insider, and Houston Chronicle, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.




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