Two Ways Business Leaders Unknowingly Sabotage Trust

Trust is the fuel that propels teams and organizations to high-levels of success. Yet, organizational leaders today unknowingly do almost everything in their power to sabotage trust.

The primary way in which trust in organizations is sabotaged is by a leader’s communication style. One particularly egregious style of leader communication, which significantly undermines trust, is called “indirect communication.”

We have all fallen victim to indirect communication at one point in our professional or personal lives. For example, have you experienced…

  • A team member going first to a boss to inform them of a mistake a co-worker or manager made on the job
  • A manager calling a mandatory team meeting to review policies and procedures because one individual has acted inappropriately.

Let’s give a closer look to these mistakes…

Trust Building Mistake #1: Are You Allowing Teammates to Throw Each Other “Under the Bus?”

The phrase “thrown under the bus” is quite common in corporate America. It occurs when co-workers directly try to undermine the credibility and reputation of a teammate by talking behind their back with peers, or going to a superior to discuss poor behaviors of someone.

This form of indirect communication can be devastating to an organization’s culture because it ruins trust between team members and killing employee morale.

But, it can get worse.

It gets worse when organizational leaders call the offending person on their behavior using this second-hand, hearsay evidence. This accelerates the destruction of trust in your organization. Organizational leaders have to stop taking the bait dangled by the employees trying to make themselves look good at the expense of their teammates.

When a leader goes directly to the accused individual, without directly observing or experiencing the behavior first hand, organizational culture and morale deteriorate.

The proper approach would be for the leader to tell the bearer of this information that they need to address the issue directly with the perpetrator.  Pushing the issue back down in this manner is what must happen with this type of indirect communication.

This is the only healthy way for teams and organizations to function. It builds high-levels of trust and commitment throughout. This will also help prevent a leader’s need for fire-fighting and crisis management

Trust Building Mistake #2: Are You Holding Generic Policy Review Team Meetings

When one individual violates a company policy or procedure, a weak organizational leader will decide its time to call everyone together for a meeting to review the issue. Now, you may think this is a great approach so all team members are clear on the expected behavior – but it’s not. Let me explain…

There are three reasons why this is a very poor approach to leadership communication:

  • As everyone knows why the meeting is called and who the perpetrators are, it causes resentment among those team members not guilty of the infraction. This sabotages trust at all levels of the team.
  • It diminishes the respect of the leader, who is choosing not to address the issue directly with the individual
  • It doesn’t solve the problem because the perpetrator doesn’t change their behavior since it always seems they never “get it.”

Organizational leaders must take it upon themselves to address these issues promptly and directly with the individual perpetrator. By doing so they point out to the individual the specific behavior they witnessed, outline why and how it is a problem, and ask directly for a change in behavior to which they can then hold the individual accountable.

It is the only healthy way for leaders to lead their teams to build a high-trust work environment with a team committed to achieving great things together.

Non-direct communication in an organization’s culture is just one of “The 7 Deadly Sins of Organizational Leadership Communication.” If you or other leaders in your organization are struggling to get greater results from your personnel at any level, the problem can be just one of two things. It’s either the habits of communication that are tolerated throughout organization, or how performance is managed.

© 2010 – 2015, Skip Weisman. All rights reserved.

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