Seems like the subject of trust is in the air. Maybe it’s the unsettled feeling in the political climate. Maybe it’s what my ears are tuned to. But I’m hearing it a lot.
Clients are asking me what they can do to create an environment where team members will acknowledge their mistakes or gaps in their expertise. Others are dealing with the emotional overload of supporting staff members who face serious life challenges and want to provide that support but aren’t sure how.
Trust comes in several flavors. Basic trust is generally easy with work colleagues. When I believe that you won’t lie, cheat, or steal, I grant you basic trust. Next is competency-based trust. At work, I need to know that you can do your job effectively, that I can count on you to get the job done.
The hardest form of trust at work is emotional trust, similar to what’s sometimes called “psychological safety.” When I feel emotionally safe with you, I grant you emotional trust. Then I feel I can take risks and you won’t punish me or humiliate me (even unintentionally) as a result. This is the hardest form of trust to earn. The first two are often granted simply as a result of being in the same organization. This one is generally earned over time.
Sometimes we get in our own way. Our own fears or anxieties keep us from doing the things that earn emotional trust. We don’t share how we’re thinking about something for fear others will think we’re foolish. We forget to let someone know the positive intentions behind or questions or actions. We don’t listen thoughtfully or inquire gently. We avoid dealing with difficult issues directly.
All of these make it harder for others to feel emotionally safe with us.