Low Trust in the Workplace: Lack of Communication

Several years ago I wrote a post entitled "5 Symptoms of Low Trust in the Workplace:  Do these sound familiar?"  Know that low trust is an issue all of us either are concerned about or are working to avoid/fix, Photo by Jackson Hendry on UnsplashI am going back now to spend more time on this topic to dive deeper into what causes low trust and how you can avoid this.

The five causes of low trust include these:

  1. Lack of communication or no communication
  2. Inability to give honest, direct, and timely feedback
  3. Unwillingness to deal with conflict
  4. Growth of Cliques
  5. Growing employee turnover

I'll spend time in today's post talking about why communication breaks down and how to deal with this.

As a recovering engineer, one of the phrases I remember from my hardware days is "if something is not broken, don't fix it".  On the surface this seems to make sense, but I now know that many things do not appear to be broken, but when you peel back the layers they are in distress.

Many organizations use the corollary of the phrase above, "don't ask, don't tell" when it comes to issues in the workplace.  By leaving what seems to be well alone, we pass up many opportunities to dive deeper and see what people are really thinking and how they really feel about their work.

As a leader or manager of others, don't assume all is well just because people are not saying anything.  I have learned that some people are afraid to speak up and many others are just not going to say anything until they are prompted.  Communication is a two-way street and leaders need to start the dialog if their direct reports are not willing to do so.  Many people you work with are less confident in their ability to clearly communicate or confide when an issue occurs and leaders who are proactive in starting the conversation will be much more effective in heading off issues before they become too big to fix.

If you lead or manage others, take the time to ask everyone who works for you how they are and what you can do to make things better.  Don't assume that their lack of initiating this conversation means all is well.  They are typically afraid to bring things up or they may feel you don't want to hear their complaints.  Set the stage for open and frequent communication and you will have crossed off one cause for low workplace trust.