Trust and the Bottom Line: Part One
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6 Ways to Optimize Performance Through Openness & Accountability

By: Ethan Schutz

Trust is at the core of The Human Element. In fact, it’s at the core of any business. When we trust one another, we’re unafraid to speak candidly, we’re open to new ideas, we’re not defensive, and we’re more engaged and innovative. But too often we don’t consider trust, and other human issues, as they relate to our bottom line. Over the course of a new 5-part series, we’ll be exploring why this is, what it’s costing us, how we typically handle human issues, how we should be handling human issues, and why this work is worth it.

Business Has Changed…

Business has evolved dramatically over the last few decades. Email, video-conferencing, and other tech tools have allowed us to communicate in ways never before possible, thus making global teamwork a reality. Social Media has connected us to colleagues, business partners, and customers in new ways as well. Plus, with the internet and smartphones, information is at our fingertips everywhere and at any time. Technology, and our addiction to it, has blurred the line between personal and professional life. Increasingly we respond to work issues immediately and perform tasks alone that would have required a whole team not so long ago. These immense shifts in our work practices have forced all industries to rethink how work is done and how we connect with customers. The opportunities are enormous.

But We Haven’t Changed!

But we as humans have not changed nearly as rapidly as technology. Issues that we experienced before are still present, and may even be augmented, in the age of technology. We still hear clients talk about the difficulties their team members have in working with one another and with customers. Gossip and water cooler talk still prevail. We’re still wrapped up in politics in the workplace, even as we claim to dislike them. We continue to carefully position, maneuver, strategize, and plan almost everything we say to pacify customers, avoid conflict with team members, and avoid upsetting the boss. We take measures to ensure that people cannot blame us when things go wrong or for things outside our control. We posture so that we look good to increase our opportunities, and to avoid jeopardizing our positions.

As a result, we are often suspicious of others, and may even view them as the enemy. We keep a close eye on each other to ensure that we both know what is going on and that we are safe.

In other words, we don’t trust one another.

What Are We Doing About It?

Strangely, most companies don’t devote much time or attention to this phenomenon. It’s seen as normal. People are expected to accept and understand that mistrust in organizational life is the norm. We are thrown into this unsafe world and are expected to navigate it without any instruction. By remaining silent, we collude with each other to maintain the myth that we all should automatically know how to cooperate. And yet, there are grave consequences for ignoring the human side of business. Misinterpreting the politics, upsetting the wrong senior executive, or rubbing teammates the wrong way can threaten one’s job, or even their career.

Now that we’ve identified the issue, it’s time to see what it’s costing us. Stay tuned for our next installment where we’ll be taking a closer look at the operational and economic consequences of ignoring the human element.