Over the course of a career that spans 45 years, most people will spend almost 95,000 hours at work. Despite working side by side day in and day out, many workers still do not know their colleagues. Of course, they know the basics like their name and title, but is that really enough to drive up productivity and profitability? The goal is to build authentically trusting workplace relationships that move the organization toward greater success. The reality is that different people have different experiences that lead to different perspectives. Could sharing those perspectives evoke a greater level of empathy and compassion within the workplace?
Working to meet an organization’s goals and objectives is a team effort. Ideally, teams should work melodiously together, but that is not often the reality. Many times in traditional work environments, teams are fragmented and disjointed with individuals working in his or her own silo. Individuals can be more focused on their own personal accomplishments rather than that of the team or the organization as a whole. To foster more harmonious team dynamics requires building trust – from the top, bottom, and sides.
To cultivate a more trusting environment, organizations can:
- Encourage team building. Although most people tend to gravitate toward what is familiar, create opportunities for employees to step outside of their respective comfort zone by interacting with colleagues they don’t usually. Provide a topic – like what two people have had the greatest impact on your life and why – along with food and encourage conversation among different individuals/groups. Create a safe space for open, honest, and confidential dialogue. Foster collaboration by moving past the superficial pleasantries and delve into topics that really matter to the workforce.
- Develop the talent pipeline by hiring, mentoring, and cultivating the talent of minority middle and upper level managers. It is very likely that the majority of the population has never had the opportunity to work as a peer with someone different from them. Hence, they do not have a frame of reference for how to horizontally communicate with minorities in a respectful manner. More importantly, if the talent pool isn’t cultivated, it will only dwindle and this would be a disservice to America. Successful businesses need diversity of perspective.
- Relax the barriers to entering the c-suite. The majority of CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies are white men. Women and people of color are constantly fighting an uphill battle to level the playing field and close the wage gap.
- Appoint more people of color to Board of Directors. According to Heidrick & Struggles’ 2017 Board Monitor report, only 1 in 5 new appointments to the Board of Directors at Fortune 500 companies in 2016 were not white. Allow the myth to be dispelled that increasing diversity will lead to a lower quality Board. Women as well as people of color have substantial contributions to make.
Trust is one of an organization’s most valuable assets. Leaders who build trust attract the best talent which leads to increased engagement along with greater productivity and profitability. Female and minority employees seeing leaders who look like them sends a strong message of respect, which intrinsically can translate into a greater sense of trust and a deeper commitment to the organization. Despite the current climate in the country, embracing diversity of thought and experience is good for business. Beyond race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, and sexual orientation lies the fact that we are all human desiring to be loved, respected, and treated fairly. If colleagues could be viewed in that vein, there would be much more collaboration, compassion, and empathy. Can you be trusted to do that?