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Too Busy to Trust!

Is busyness hurting your trust building at work?

Every work day, the average American business person receives or sends over 120 emails, deals with upwards of 30 text messages, engages in six calls or chats, attends at least one meeting, and juggles regular job responsibilities. Add 24/7 availability and 24/7/365 expected connectivity, and a sense of feeling busy-all-the-time is taking root.

Overwhelmed, overworked, and overstressed are growing mantras. But the challenge of feeling busy affects more than growing to-do lists and blurred work-life lines. What is it doing to our ability, or even our interest, in building strong and trusting work relationships?

Trust building is a process. It requires not only the right actions, but ongoing nurturing, tending, and growing. It requires what people feel they don't have -- time.

As electronic messaging becomes a growing preference for how we communication, trumping in-person or live phone or VOIP conversations, the question is: are signals being crossed, intentions misread, conflicts escalated, and trust diminished as a result?

BingImage - free to use and share
Source: BingImage - free to use and share

Those rushed text messages, instantly reactive emails, or one-way directives aren't trust enhancing. Why have a difficult, sometimes emotionally charged real conversation when you can avoid it by sending an easier electronic message? It's no longer unusual to hear about people who have been told about their job loss via text or email. And of course, the unintended consequences of diminished trust go beyond that person and that message.

While we may have a sense of greater connectivity with more frequent and even more interactive communications electronically, it's not the type of communication that builds strong relationships or authentic trust. University of Chicago Assistant Professor, Paul Booth commented on the research this way: "Our social connections are not strengthened as much through social media as they are face-to-face, so we don't tend to deepen our relationships—they tend to exist in the status quo."

The reality is we are less connected to people if we only communicate with them by electronic means. Technology is a wonderful, quick, and efficient tool for many types of communication. But it is a relationship and trust inhibiter for others.

We diminish trust, and our own relationship skill development and growth, not to mention our results, if we ...

  • fail to pick up the phone to listen and address a difficult problem with a challenging coworker, client, or customer.
  • avoid the personal understanding of the impact of our decisions, or the reality of what it takes to communicate difficult news with compassion and understanding.
  • address performance problems, failed expectations, or reduced results without a dialogue for mutual learning and future development.
  • enable unresolved conflicts, growing frustrations, or dark-side company politics because it's easier for us not to develop the skills needed to diffuse, resolve, or address them.
  • trade ease of doing for thoughtful and elevated communication approaches that build trusted work relationships, enhance understanding, and enable engagement and innovation.

It's not only what we do that can build or diminish trust at work; it's also how we do it. If you want the dividends that trust pays -- from increased productivity and responsiveness to heightened engagement and collaboration -- you can never be too busy to invest time in building trusting relationships at work.

More tips and trust building behaviors for yourself and your work group:

You'll find five trust essentials in my book: Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture That Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation (Career Press, 2014).


About the Author

Nan S. Russell is a former corporate executive and the author of four books, including, Trust, Inc. and The Titleless Leader.