Posted by: healingtheworkplace | May 18, 2009

Trust Is The Glue That Holds It All Together


I’ve just been looking at the “search words” people use to find my blog. In the past week the word trust has been predominant.

Everything begins with trust:

  • the success of our relationships
  • the success of our teams
  • the success of our organizations

Trust is the foundation that makes it possible for us to work together and to accomplish the work we need to accomplish. Trust is the glue that holds it all together once we have begun.

If your workplace is in need of healing it’s a good bet that trust has been broken and we all know that once trust has been broken it is difficult to regain that trust.

How does one begin? I think it depends on a number of different things:

  • the extent of the damage
  • how long trust has been broken
  • who broke the trust in the first place
  • the size of the organization
  • one’s position in the organization

There are certainly hundreds of different approaches you can take to begin the healing and thousands of consultants who would be happy to help you.

Most approaches don’t work because they are short term and ad hoc. Rebuilding trust takes time and short term interventions probably won’t work. At least not in my experience.

Last year I met a CEO who told me his story: when he became the CEO he ‘inherited’ a VP of Operations. This person had been with the organization for some time and appeared to be doing good work. It wasn’t long before problems began to surface.

The VP was disfunctional and she was a bully. She had created a culture of fear and after she left the CEO began a long, slow process of healing and rebuilding.

I think that I can safely say that it has taken YEARS to rebuild the trust necessary for the organization to grow and move forward. 

So, back to my earlier question about what to do and how to start? Like most things in life…it depends. In my example above the CEO took the lead. I’ll have to ask him if I can share more of his story in a future blog.

Sometimes you will have to take the lead.

I once worked in a fairly large health care organization (large by Canadian standards) and there had been a number of layoffs and cuts to front line staff.  Many of these people had been with the organization for over twenty years.

They described themselves as family and there was a lot of heartbreak and confusion when they left the organization.

Timing is everything in life and at that point in time I had the opportunity to arrange a dialogue with the CEO and a number of staff from the hospitals that had been affected by the cuts. It was a fascinating experiment for me as I had never done anything like it before.

Everyone was nervous! I think the CEO was the most nervous of all us us. We started off with a reflection and agreement on ground rules and then commenced the dialogue which lasted about an hour.

Everyone behaved appropriately and I think that people came away feeling like they had had some of their questions answered and had a better understanding of management’s decision.

But what if you are not the CEO or not in a position to call meetings with people outside your team or department?

Remember Ghandi’s words? “Be the change you want in the world.”

Thich Nhat Hanh says, “We must be the  peace we wish to see in the world.”

Another way to look at this is to approach the work with “a spirit of compassion and curiosity”. This is from the book Gracious Space written by Patricia M. Hughes.

I’ll write more about Gracious Space in another post.

It really does begin with us. Sometimes we can make a difference and begin the healing process  with our colleagues. Sometimes we have to look after ourselves and we need to move on and leave the place that is broken.




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