Trust is everything! Want it? Then start by being vulnerable.

- Mindfulness

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by Josh Briggs

There are many companies that still use fear as the primary driver for employee performance. Morale at these places is low, stress is high, and just about every employee has the LinkedIn Jobs Page opened on a ready-to-minimize window.

I have worked at a few of these organizations.

The main thing I experienced at these places was a severe lack of trust.

A company has a trust problem when…

When employers don’t trust the employee

They use fear to affect behavior. They keep supplies under lock and key. (At one place, you literally had to “know a guy” to get a writing pen.) They track the time spent at your desk, which motivates many to skip lunch. And they micromanage every component of your job, which not only kills creativity and motivation, but also drives you to avoid social engagement beyond what is necessary — for fear that you’ll be thought of as an incompetent slacker.

When employees don’t trust the employer

They make sure to show the employer only the things going well and not the problems that need to be addressed before they kill a project or worse. They do just enough to keep their job — until they found something else. They lack ambition and creativity. Why bother trying when your ideas will be shot down anyway?

When employees don’t trust each other

Subject matter experts will hoard their knowledge fearing no longer being the “go-to” person — even though that just results in more work getting piled on them. Team members don’t look out for one another, and some even look for opportunities to tarnish their teammates’ reputation to look favorable in the eyes of their employer.

If this is you, you have my deepest sympathies. Working on a team where no one feels safe enough to trust each other is extremely stressful.
When we don’t trust each other, we hoard our resources and hide who we really are as individuals.

But there’s still hope! Trust can grow!

Even in the most hostile organizations I’ve been a part of, I have found it possible to grow trust. It takes time, it takes multiple approaches, and it takes vulnerability on your part.

Being vulnerable takes guts! You are presenting your authentic self, and your authentic self will either be accepted or rejected.

Get a little vulnerable

There are a few options to get you started (but remember there are many many more ways to experiment with being vulnerable):

Vulnerability Option 1: Before heading into the office or a meeting, encourage yourself to let go of worrying about what others think of you and to share one genuine thought you have.

Vulnerability Option 2: When someone asks you how you are doing, tell them how you are actually doing. Do not respond with the canned, “I’m fine and you?”

Vulnerability Option 3: When you need help, let someone know you’re struggling and ask for it.

During this experiment, keep a journal and take notes. What emotions do you feel when experimenting with vulnerability? How are others responding to you? Is trust growing? And, what are you going to do next?

One thought on "Trust is everything! Want it? Then start by being vulnerable."

  • Mark says:

    Fear can force performance, as in minimum performance. Fear fosters a question like, “What is the least I can do today and still keep my job?”.
    It certainly does not foster creativity, collaboration, job satisfaction, and hence it cannot lift the human spirit. Only when the human spirit is allowed to fly, to be free, only then can we tap into our potential as employees, as humans, as utterly unique, never-to-be-repeated, beautiful people. Only then can we be vulnerable, and in vulnerability, we can soar. We may crash from time to time, but soaring even once is better than being scared to move at all.
    I was just terminated from a soul-crushing, fear-laden culture and am embracing the opportunity to follow a new path, hopeful that the next organization I serve realizes that fear strangles all, holds back all, and eventually beats down all. Life is too short, too precious, too much of a sacred gift to be weighed down by fear. I will find a culture where vulnerability and humility permeate. Together, unafraid, we can and will do great things.

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