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COVID Didn’t Destroy Trust – It Just Exposed The Rotten Reality

"Do you see any changes in organizational culture since COVID?"

Uh. Yes. ;) I get asked this a lot - I'm not entirely sure why - and my answer is almost always the same.

Yes, there are actually a lot of truly transformational changes, some fantastic, some less so, and a really big one is that in so many cases, leadership simply can no longer hide the fact that they have very little trust in their employees, and despite slogans about "Our Employees are Our Greatest Asset", they haven't put the employee at the center of ~any~ decisions for a really long time, if ever.

COVID (or "2020", the other assumed culprit) didn't create that problem. It actually did us all a favour because it ripped the bandaid right off the painful truth. A sudden increase in remote working has certainly created more uncertainty for many managers, another symptom of lack of trust. A recent study found that workers who’ve been laid off are less willing to trust others, and those doubts can linger for ten years or more even after starting a new job. It’s sobering news considering the recent pandemic that made redundancy a household word.

If you lost your job or just value a workplace with a culture of trust, there are ways to build that sense of community. Consider these suggestions for steps you can take yourself and qualities you can look for in your next employer.

Steps to Take for Building Trust in the Workplace

1. Set conditions. Memories of a security guard escorting you or your colleagues out of the building are bound to make you a little skeptical about management. Keep in mind that healthy trust is different from a blank check. Open up while maintaining sensible limits, like saying no to forced overtime or destructive gossip.

2. Give trust. Trust is a two-way street. By offering trust to your colleagues, you’re more likely to receive their confidence in return. Train yourself to start from a place of assuming good intentions, rather than a place of fear. (Easier said than done, but it CAN be done.)

3. Live up to your word. Align your actions with your speech. Let your supervisor know they can count on you when you say you’ll complete a proposal before the final deadline or resolve a customer complaint. Personal accountability is a fantastic trait. Consider making this a part of team charters or "ground rules" for meetings – now you have a whole set of accountability partners built right in to your work environment!

4. Express gratitude. Small gestures matter too. In fact, they tend to make a bigger difference than grand ones, partly because we can engage in them multiple times a day – it adds up! Thank the receptionist who wishes you a cheerful good morning. Bring back souvenirs for the office mate who checked your email while you were away on vacation.