How does trust affect your workplace? Your HR function? Your HR Team?
Is it just being able to count on someone to do what they say? Or is it organisational i.e. is yours a trusted organisation? Do things happen as promised, is communication transparent?
Trust, to me, is crucial in the working relationship and the key to trust, is emotional intelligence… but I’ll let Jason Roberts (our first ever guest blogger!) tell you about that in a moment.
I’ve recently been re-reading Stephen M.R Covey’s (ok, ok I’m a fan) The Speed of Trust and it’s put all sorts of crazy and wonderful ideas in my head about the possibilities of using trust as the main component in HR. Obviously keeping confidence and being trust worthy are integral to any HR role, but how can we use this to ensure best practice?
Decisions are made faster, initiatives launched with more enthusiasm, roadblocks disappear and productivity is higher when high trust relationships exist within organisations.
Trying to implement a new HRIS? Make sure performance reviews are completed? Get honest 360 degree feedback? How much quicker and easier would these be if the people you were dealing with trust you implicitly?
“I don’t need to see the proposal or costing, I’m going to approve your request to implement a whizz bang HRIS because I trust that you have done the research and made the best decision for the business.” Which would be correct 🙂 But hardly realistic!
A working relationship built on trust isn’t about blind faith – real trust is built on two components as Covey says “Confidence” and “Competence”.
Your clients need to know that you work with integrity (you walk the talk, you do what’s right, you are worthy of trust) and that you are capable (you make good decisions, you’re smart, you have the skills required)
So how do we work trust into our relationships as HR practitioners… hmmm… Well the easy bit is self trust. You need to be able to trust yourself to work with integrity and competence. The trickier part is working with others. How do we trust them? How do we know they trust us?
And that brings us to Jason Roberts on Emotional Intelligence (What a segue!!)
Thanks for asking me to share some comments on your blog.
As you’ve pointed out so clearly, trust is essential in any working relationship. Without trust, there can be little cooperation other than that driven by duty or loyalty. Without willing and interested cooperation, staff is merely a collection of individuals, slotted into a timetable, whose dynamic is limited to following directions.
So, to your question: what is the role of emotional intelligence in developing trust at work?
It’s a big question, and for the sake of being concise, I am going to focus on two behaviours I routinely see that undermine trust and cause immeasurable damage to an organisation’s bottom line.
The first area concerns how workplace decisions are communicated, and it’s probably best explained by way of a scenario.
A manager – let’s call her Jill – has just been informed of major cutbacks in funding for overtime and some potential redundancies. Naturally, Jill is concerned about these decisions and worries how her staff will take it. To communicate the decision, she invites all the relevant people to a meeting. Jill delivers the facts of the decision in a firm professional business-like manner; making sure upper-management’s decision is supported without question.
Another manger – Robert – is equally concerned about the decision and the way upper-management is handling it. Roberts is ‘one of the troops’ and, as well as communicating the facts of the decision, he shares his disgruntlement and frustration.
These two polarities demonstrate what I call the ‘communist’ and the ‘anarchist’ approaches. While they both communicate the fact that the decision is not negotiable, the first style is very much “comrades, we must follow the party leader”, and the second is “these leaders here are crap and their decisions are rubbish”.
I believe there is a totally incorrect notion that when it comes to communicating difficult decisions in the workplace, leaders have to assume one of these two positions. Unfortunately, neither engenders trust. In fact, both styles create mistrust among staff.
The next most frequent workplace challenge I see that requires trust and emotional intelligence is communicating in an honest and meaningful way when having a ‘hard conversation’ – for example giving poor performance feedback and developing a way forward with a staff member.
Apart from the 70% of people who simply opt out and don’t have the conversation at all, when people do engage in a ‘hard conversation’, I again see polarities arise.
On one hand, feedback and expectations are communicated in a tactless, aggressive, almost bullying style. On the other, I see ‘hard conversations’ delivered in a wishy-washy, fluffy style.
These behaviours are typical of low emotional intelligence in the workplace. Unfortunately they do nothing except create distrust and confusion, and generally the point of the exercise and the opportunity for growth is missed.
So how we do things differently and behave in an emotionally intelligent way to create workplace trust?
I suggest two very simple yet effective approaches.
- The development of emotionally intelligent decision-making. A style of communication that communicates both the facts and feelings of all the stakeholders and gains their commitment.
- The development of emotionally intelligent, interpersonal communication. Communication that is clear, succinct, tactful, and contains a path forward.
Both of these skills can be taught quickly and easily. Yes, they take practice, but what doesn’t? I have worked with NSW police, Hunter Health, ANZ bank, and dozens of other organisations across the country and seen people from Olympic athletes to corporate mangers and even street-kids develop these skills, and as a result foster trust and growth in their relationships.
Olivia, as you know, workplace emotional intelligence and trust is a deep and complex topic. I’m grateful for this opportunity to share two of the most effective ways it can be developed.
Jason is a Workplace Learning and Development Consultant with more than 15 years experience. He has a Bachelor Degree in Training and Development and Psychology Studies, is a three-times Commonwealth Games medalist and former employee of the South Australian Sport Institute. Informed by research recording the transition from being an elite athlete to a non-sporting life, Jason has a profound understanding of how people manage and deal with change. He has also carried out African wildlife conservation work and in 2005, was an invited judge for the Australian Humanitarian of the Year Award.