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Focus on these things to succeed in Workplace Communication Skills

Building Trust with Co-Workers


By Deb Calvert, President, People First Productivity Solutions


In the past decade, trust has become a hot topic in business. Maybe it’s a reaction to the big corporate scandals that rocked the U.S. and led to stringent accounting practices or to housing market declines and big business bailouts. Or maybe it’s the lack of trust in companies that rapidly inflate and can’t sustain their growth so they lay off thousands of people with barely the blink of an eye.


Whatever’s behind it, trust is something that suddenly seems to matter again. In August 2012, there are 4,261 business books available on amazon.com on the subject of trust. But what, exactly, is trust?


The dictionary defines trust as “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc. of a person or thing.” It’s the “etc.” part of that definition that is subject to interpretation. It’s that vague, undefined and intangible element of trust that makes it somewhat elusive in the workplace.


Try this. Ask five different people what causes them to trust someone. You’ll get at least three different answers, usually relating to honesty and reliability. In fact, there are 12 dimensions of trust. That’s 12 different ways in the workplace that you can inadvertently violate someone’s trust without fully understanding that it’s an issue of trust at all.


Case in point. A few years ago, I was asked to coach a mid-level manager who had been told in her performance review that she was untrustworthy. She was so upset by this comment, the only blemish in an otherwise good review, that she had escalated the conversation to HR and was prepared to hire an attorney to defend her against this “character assassination.”


In her mind, trustworthy meant honest. She thought those two words were synonymous. She believed she had been called “dishonest.”


In the mind of her director, the one who wrote the review, trustworthy meant reliability. His intention was to convey that she had missed so many deadlines that he no longer trusted her with time-sensitive project work. When this was more fully explained, in a way she could hear it objectively, she relented. She agreed that she had missed those deadlines, but she could not accept the word untrustworthy.


It was, indeed, an issue of trust. It’s just that these two people understood and used the word differently. To avoid a similar misunderstanding, it’s helpful to know the 12 dimensions of trust. It’s also important to understand that different people place different value on each dimension. Being solid in all 12 areas is the best way to ensure you are viewed at all time as being trustworthy. The 12 dimensions of trust are:


#1 Competence

You have the skills and knowledge that are commensurate with expected results. You strive to learn and increase your competence.


#2 Integrity

You consistently make ethical choices regardless of convenience, profit, fun or other personal benefit.


#3 Consistency

You are reliable, steady, and predictable. Everyone knows what to expect from you. You are someone that others can count on.


#4 Loyalty

You make and keep long-term commitments to individuals, teams and organizations. You support others at all times.


#5 Availability

You make time for needed conversations and listen without distractions. You are fully present in interactions with others.


#6 Fairness

You use objective criteria to evaluate situations or personnel. You do not exhibit favoritism. You hold everyone to equal standards.


#7 Decision-Making

You know and share your decision-making criteria. You involve others in the decision-making process. You explain the rationale of your decisions.


#8 Follow Through

You deliver what has been promised. You honor agreements. You accept responsibility if your commitments are not kept.


#9 Openness

You communicate with complete disclosure, and you don’t hold back information. You share your opinion even when it’s not popular.


#10 Discreteness

You respect confidentiality. You gets permission and use care before sharing information with others.


#11 Constructive Intent

You can share sensitive messages without causing defensiveness. Your communication motives are not self-serving.


#12 Accurate Self-Assessment

You understand and acknowledge your own limitations. You seek and accept help when needed.


Some of these may surprise you. As busy as you are, it never occurred to you that being unavailable to other members of your team could cause them to mistrust you. Or the lack of follow through that everyone knows is your weakness… Maybe this is more than a little idiosyncrasy… Maybe your poor follow through is causing some vague mistrust that carries over in ways that can harm your career or reputation.


Now that you have this list of the 12 dimensions of trust, consider using it as a self-assessment. What can you do to be sure you are universally and consistently viewed as someone others can trust?  Please join the conversation in 'This Week's Discussion'


Written by Deb Calvert,

Workplace Communication Skills Expert for ManagingAmericans.com & President, People First Productivity Solutions.

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