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When trust breaks down in organizations it can impact employee turnover, communication, collaboration, risk taking and creativity—among other things—all of which can harm the bottom line, according to Richard Fagerlin, president of Peak Solutions Inc. in Fort Collins, Colo.
Trust is the foundation of a strong organization, he said during a concurrent session titled “The True Truth on Trust,” held April 30, 2012, as part of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Talent Management Conference & Exposition at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center near Washington, D.C.
He dismissed those who suggest that conversations about trust are “fluff” or “touchy feely stuff” by explaining that when trust is absent, employees experience what he called a “trust hangover.” This can manifest itself as:
Yet low trust—and the accompanying fear it tends to cause—is understandable given the way many organizations are doing business in 2012, as the economic recovery continues, he suggested. Everyone is expected to do more with less; job responsibilities have changed; raises, bonuses and benefits have been reduced or eliminated; change, in general, is nonstop.
Fagerlin challenged certain “truths” many people were raised to believe, such as “trust is earned over time” and “it takes a lifetime to build trust and a second to lose it,” and he encouraged attendees to consider a new model of trust.
According to Fagerlin’s “three-legged” model, trust requires confidence in one’s relationships with others and a belief that they will meet expectations in three overlapping areas:
Instead of saying “I don’t trust you,” individuals can use the three concepts in the model to pinpoint the reason they feel distrust toward a colleague, employee or leader. It provides a new vocabulary to talk about what’s behind the emotion of distrust, he said.
However, trust in the workplace requires a focus on relationships and a recognition that everyone plays a key role in the success or failure of those relationships. “Relationships can’t be a zero-sum game,” he noted, “There can’t be winners and losers.”
To build trust, HR professionals need to:
The next step for HR is to “train the trainer” by teaching others a new approach to trust. After all, “Trust is an attitude, and attitudes are contagious,” he said.
Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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