Warren Buffet once said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it." When trust is absent in any team or system, you immediately start to eat into what's possible. People hold back information, collaboration declines, people feel less creative and the toxicity escalates.
Joel Peterson -- Chairman of Jetblue, two-time author, and Stanford professor who has funded a number of entrepreneurs and their ventures -- says that trust is a critical function in any relationship, and breaches of trust typically fall into two categories: minor betrayals (like being late to deliver a project or coming up short on what you promised) and showstoppers (like stealing or lying).
Big breaches of trust are not something I'll write about right now. I'll focus more on the little things that build up over time between colleagues and corrode a perfectly viable relationship.
I have seen this in my life and also frequently with my consulting clients: little breaches of trust occur, and what started as a minor thing becomes a big deal if not addressed. If this goes on long enough, the relationship becomes unworkable.
So, how can you proactively diagnose a lack of trust with a colleague or team member? These seven signals unquestionably mean there might be some underlying issues to solve:
1. Someone is double-checking your work.
Unless you're in publishing or have a frequent need for a proof-reader, you know that having someone continually double-checking your work can be infuriating and a blow to one's self-esteem. Having someone's back by spotting an error is one thing, but scouring their work for mistakes on a regular basis demonstrates a clear lack of trust.
2. You are not empowered to make decisions.
If you are accountable for something, yet, need all kinds of approvals from your co-founder to do your job, that's a red flag. Either that signals your colleague doesn't trust you or there's an underlying issue in the company culture. Regardless, if this is happening, address it openly with the appropriate people.
3. Your colleague asks you to copy them on all emails.
The need to feel trusted is a fundamental human desire. Just like you wouldn't want your partner looking over your shoulder every time you send a text, being forced to copy someone else on every email can bring forth feelings of resentment, distrust and inadequacy. While there are certainly exceptions, such as your colleague wanting to keep privy about a specific project, if you find that this kind of oversight is becoming the norm, then you've got to take the initiative to figure out why.
4. You're often the last to find out.
Feeling like a valuable part of a team means being kept in the loop. If this isn't happening, then there's clearly a disconnect and one that needs fixing. It's difficult to do your job well if you don't have all of the information at your disposal. Being the last one to find out can lead to some awkward situations with clients or coworkers. While we should all avoid the instinctive desire to want to know anything and everything, there's quite a difference when it comes to demanding information that is required to perform your duties.
5. People don't rely on you for support.
Being asked for advice is flattering on some level. It shows that your opinion is valued and that you have something unique to bring to the table. But what if no one is asking for your help? This can sting and cause you to wonder whether your judgment is as good as you think it is. The truth is, your judgment may be just fine, but there's a lack of trust somewhere that is preventing people from reaching out for your guidance.
6. You get little team support.
Feeling supported at work is crucial for job satisfaction. If you are at a point where you feel like your team or someone specific is never available to help you, that might be an indication that the relationship might be tarnished. This is a symptom of a bigger underlying issue and it would be wise to get to the bottom of it.
7. You get passive-aggressive comments.
This one is particularly disheartening. Subtle digs and passive-aggressive comments can drive even the most level-headed person, bonkers. While it would be nice if everyone in the workplace were just straight-forward with their thoughts and actions, this is rarely the case.
Trust is not some feel-good thing that is not quantifiable. What's possible for the company gets negatively impacted as trust is the foundation upon which relationships are built. And companies are made up of people working together. So, knowing how to diagnose a lack of trust is the first step in building powerful teams and businesses.