Trust is the most misunderstood word at work, resulting in perceptions of broken promises and trampled expectations. People mean different things when they use the word. But the new workplace currency of trust is centered on authentic trust. Authentic trust comes from authentic people.
Only when there is a commitment to the relationship is authentic trust built. When mutual commitments are delivered without concern for personal advantage or attempted manipulation or control, trust grows.
Consider these misunderstood truths about authentic trust - the kind of trust that builds workplaces and ignites engagement:
1. Trust is not always a good thing. There are many types of trust. Non-authentic, basic trust can be unrealistic, naïve, foolish, or blind. Yet, many people still operate at work with this simple kind of trust most of us started with as babies. Childlike trust is not authentic trust. It's not the kind of trust that builds work relationships. Trust is not inherently good or not good. It's how and when it's applied.
2. Mistrust is not the opposite of trust. Control is. Notice where there is a lack of authentic trust and you'll see controlling people. Giving trust is a choice to be made but once it's given, accountability tied with freedom is at its core.
3. There is always risk when giving trust. Authentic trust is an action developed through critical thought and experience. It doesn't deny the past or ignore the possibility of future trust broken, either intentional or unintentional. Those operating with authentic trust weigh the risks and benefits before giving it.
4. Trust is a process. Authentic trust is not a screensaver waiting in the background until it's needed. It's not the glue that holds things together. Authentic trust is a learned emotional skill. It involves an ongoing process of relationship building, where the relationship is more important than any one particular outcome.
5. Trust is about people not things. Trust involves interpersonal engagement. We may use the word, associating trust with things as well as people, but one can't really "trust" their car. We confuse trust with "dependable" or "reliable." Authentic trust requires commitments made and commitments honored. It necessitates decision, action, and response.
6. Trust is conditional. There are limits and conditions with authentic trust. When we say we trust someone, there is a presumed statement of conditionality. I may trust my mechanic to work on my car, but I don't trust him to do my root canal.
7. To get trust you must give it. If you want to be trusted you must first give trust. You may be loveable, but that won't get you love - loving will. Sharing, not hoarding information gets you communication, and respect comes by respecting others. As a relationship process, authentic trust is no different. Contrary to popular belief, trust is not earned. You start trust by giving trust.
Authentic trust, like love, is cultivated, grown, and nurtured. We make authentic trust. We make it by what we do and how we do it. We make it by what we say and how we say it. We make it by showing up and being authentic. We make it by giving it away.
Don't like the current work environment you see, full of distrust and skepticism? Help make a better one. Here are a few tips on how to build authentic trust where you work, no matter your role:
The article is adapted from my book, Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Work.