Have you ever struggled to release the pain caused by broken trust? Sure, you wanted to forget what happened. To move through the experience and move on. Yet, the pain lingered like a phantom limb.
Stealing your focus.
Draining your energy.
Holding you back.
I just took a call about this from a prospective client – the VP of HR for a consumer products company. This woman’s team had a lot on its plate. A new CEO to position. A leadership team to develop. A transformative agenda to bring out. But, the biggest challenge?
For the past few years, the company had gone through lots of changes. Changes whose negative impacts had largely been worked around, instead of through. This is what that head of HR said to me:
“Hits on trust that happened years ago are posing a serious threat to our current initiatives,” she told me. “Instead of trust being used as a vehicle to connect and move forward, people are using it as a weapon, using what happened in the past to judge and criticize. These historical hurts on trust have been identified as the number one barrier to our agenda’s successful implementation. We’re looking for a healing strategy.”
A healing strategy. That got my attention.
Isn’t that what we all need, when trust has broken down? We all want to learn to trust again and get back in the game. We all want healing for the people we work with and support – healing that helps them be their best. There’s only way. And that’s to step in and work through the historical hurts. Here’s where I can help – with a roadmap proven to overcome historical hits on trust and help people and teams learn to trust again.
Observe and acknowledge what’s happened.
Give the gift of awareness. Notice and acknowledge what you and your people are experiencing. Healing begins when leaders recognize what has occurred, its effect on people and the system, and the resulting losses.
Sometimes ‘what happened’ to break trust down is straightforward. A single act. A glaring oversight. But far more often, trust has been worn down by less obvious behaviors. Little things people have ‘done’ to one another unintentionally.
Small behaviors that were perceived as insensitive.
Fleeting reactions that triggered doubt about intentions or motives.
Ways people felt railroaded, instead of supported, to move through change.
Assess where trust stands, and why. Get a baseline understanding that will help you and your people stop beating around the bush and address core issues.
Encourage feelings to surface.
Trust is emotionally provocative. When it’s broken, strong feelings get stirred. Anxiety. Vulnerability. Regret. Betrayal. People may wonder if they have what it takes to move on and contribute – or if they even want to. Give people permission to express those feelings constructively. Create safe forums that allow people to express their fear, frustration, anger, and doubt. Interrupt the cycle of resentment going ‘underground.’ Help people give voice to the negativity they’re holding, so they can begin to release it.
Give yourself permission to get support.
Rebuilding trust is hard work. But something quite powerful occurs when the breach of trust is truthfully acknowledged. Not twisted, justified, or defended – but simply acknowledged.
People can begin to move from finger-pointing to understanding. From judging to considering extenuating circumstances. From abdicating to problem solving. From loss to possibility. Trust work is game changing. Yet, it’s not always easy. You may need support to bring out the highest intentions of everyone in your organization.
You may need support to support the trust work.
Give yourself permission to go after the help you need. For 25 years, the biggest mistake I’ve seen HR leaders make is not asking for support earlier.
Reframe the experience.
Help people understand the bigger picture of ‘what happened.’ Encourage them to ask questions about what they’ve experienced. Give them open answers. Help them discover opportunity. Authentically engaging a process of inquiry gives people the chance to broaden their perspectives. To see beyond their own pain and take in the challenges the business is facing. People want the organizations they work for to be successful. Help them see their role in forging that success. Paint a picture of where they fit in and how you’re in this process to rebuild trust together.
Support people to take responsibility. They may not have responsibility for what occurred and what they experienced. But they can take responsibility for how they choose to respond. Yes, there is power in hearing and acknowledging what happened. But the key to turning sinking trust around is inviting others to take responsibility for aligning around the path forward. This open invitation is an opportunity to empower people. To unleash the paradigm-shifting realization that trust begins with them. With their sound intentions. Their constructive attitudes. Their commitment to extend the benefit of the doubt, check out assumptions, and truly seek to understand – instead of blame – one another when trust breaks down.
People have far more power than they realize to dramatically improve the level and quality of trust in their workplaces. Spark that awareness. Feed it. Use it.
Offer release through forgiveness.
Forgiveness is freedom. It’s not forgetting what happened, but releasing the grip of what happened. It’s about letting go, so you can move on. Help your people move through lingering bitterness. Listen for what still needs to be heard and understood for them to feel ready to let go. Help them choose to remember the lessons and release the impact. Support them rebuild trust and open up to co-creating the future. Leading the way in extending forgiveness is not just for others, but for yourself. Carrying guilt about your possible role in trust’s breakdown won’t serve anyone.
Let go and move on.
Trust begins with you. Model moving on! Contribute to your organization’s new Trust Story. You’ve got a fresh start, and you’ve earned it. Yet – don’t underestimate trust’s fragility. Keep close tabs on the behaviors you model.
The moment any of us stop paying attention to trust is the moment we risk losing it.
About the Author: Michele Reina is co-founder of Reina, A Trust Building Consultancy. She, along with business partner and husband Dennis Reina, have collectively devoted nearly 50 years to researching trust, developing rigorous instruments to measure trust and defining practical steps to rebuild trust that has been compromised. Michele works with organizations like Walt Disney World, American Express and Harvard University, taking the guesswork out of trust building to achieve measurable improvements in collaboration and teamwork, employee engagement, leadership effectiveness, workplace culture and change management.
So, I’m driving home from St. Louis listening to Drive Thru HR, which I usually do on road trips, to catch up on my daily HR news from some incredible HR professionals all over the world.
I hear Lisa Rosendahl, (@lisarosendahl) who I was fortunate to meet last year at HRevolution. On the show, Lisa and William Tincup are talking about credibility and all these memories started popping into my mind, ideas and examples so I thought this is a great topic for my next Women of HR blog post.
The story I thought about occurred in my first couple of years of my HR career.
I was in charge of starting a training department. My initial goals where to hire a training coordinator and a couple of trainers. We had a person from another department with computer experience coming in to provide computer training and she was doing very well performance and training wise. Just for the record, I inherited her and she was not my hire.
She was getting good reviews but there were a few things that started to tick me off, so to speak. Measurable things that reflected poorly on our brand new “start-up” department and the rest of us who worked in the department. The following describes how she presented herself and how I perceived her credibility, NOT good.
I have talked about this story several times but never really sat down and wrote about it.
She repeatedly dressed inappropriately as a trainer and as a representative of the organization in front of 20 to 30 of our 500 employees at any one time. Her “see through” pants were so sheer that you could see whatever kind of underwear she was wearing, thongs and all! She would also come in wearing shirts that showed off her belly button.
This was a 25 to 28 year old woman, so we are not talking about a teenager, but what really topped it off was the office Christmas party attire. And YES I do tell this is a story every time I discuss credibility, or lack thereof, in a business setting.
At our Christmas party that year, she came in late (of course) to make an entrance. I remember looking toward the door as she walked in and what I saw was to be talked about for some time after by everyone there in the office. She had long hair that nearly went down to her bottom and she had it stacked on top of her head in the shape of a Christmas tree with lights and decorations in it. Her earrings were also flashing decorative lights. She was wearing five inch heels, a dress that was extremely short and skin tight. Her dress had almost no back and was cut all the way down to her underwear and everyone stopped and stared.
She was suppose to be a professional in an organization and come Monday morning in the board room the discussion was not what’s going on in the spreadsheets today but, did you all see what so and so was wearing the other night at the Christmas party? From then on, I’m sure her credibility wasn’t that thick because of the clothes she chose to wear to work.
What’s the lesson here?
Credibility goes well beyond your paper credentials. Consider the entire picture and how people perceive you and what you choose to do (or wear).
Photo credit: Unknown
This is the 10th post in our Women of HR series focusing on career. Read along, consider the advice and we invite you to comment with insights of your own.
I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of network. It’s amazing how powerful a network can be.
Since as far back as I can remember, I’ve always invested time in building my network and helping people around me. For some lucky reason, networking came natural to me and I started networking early on in my career and even as a student. Today, I realize how much I’ve accomplished by building my network. After 15-20 years, my network has become powerful
I have some great stories, related to finding a job, which demonstrates the power of a network:
My Dream Job
I decided, 2 ½ years ago, that I didn’t want to be a consultant anymore. I missed working with a team. I made a list of my ideal job: technology company, small to medium business (SMB) size and ideally near my home. So I started researching on Google and found this amazing SMB techno company not even a mile from my home.
After more research, I found out on LinkedIn that this guy I’d just helped preparing his resume was linked to one of the co-founders of this company. There is a lot of luck and great timing in my story but because of my network, I found an easy way to introduce myself to this company and I’ve been working there since.
I LOVE my job. Thank you to my friendly network.
Helping Others Find Their Dream Jobs
Recently, because of my network, I helped 2 friends find their dream jobs.
The first friend called me up to get some feedback on her resume. She was starting to search for a new job as a web coordinator and wasn’t sure her resume gave the right impression. After hanging up with her, about 10 minutes later, 2 guys came in our office to look at our office space (our offices are moving to a bigger space) and I realized that one of the guys is someone I knew from school. So we start chatting and they explain to me what business they are in … yes, web sites development. My friend would be the perfect match for them so I tell them about her. They agreed to meet her and they hired her!
The second friend had been looking for an HR job for around 6 months. She was taking her time because it was important for her to find the right fit. So I find myself one morning in a networking event and I’m talking with someone I’ve met a few times before. We work in the same industry and are both in HR. He shares with me the fact that he needs to hire someone in HR but he finds it challenging to find the right person. After discussing the profile he’s looking for, I tell him about my friend whom I think would be a great fit for his job. When I tell him her name, he realizes that she applied for his open position and they where meeting a few days later for an interview. He hired her!
So what do these stories have in common?
Amazing timing and luck for sure, but more than that, they each reflect the power of a network. In competition for jobs today, it makes a difference if you are recommended or referred by someone the company already trusts. You can get your dream job because of your network – because you are connected with someone the company already trusts.
Read that again. Powerful!
Never, never neglect your network because you never know when it will have such a powerful impact on your life.
Photo credit iStockphoto
Now is the time of year that employees begin to look at their vacation and PTO balances and realize that they have 3 weeks of vacation to take before the end of the year – or they’ll lose it.
Do you allow them to take it all in one block? Do you require them to break it up into shorter amounts (i.e. a week at a time) or do you make an exception to company policy and allow them to carry over? On the flip side, maybe you have an employee that already has a planned vacation but has already taken too much time this year and has no additional time to take.
What’s an HR pro to do?
Time off is one of those HR policies and employee benefits that is very close to an employee’s heart and therefore, issues around time off can often be contentious between the employer and employee. One thing that employees hate most is an ill-defined policy that leaves them thinking one thing, while the employer is thinking another.
This is a common problem. This recently happened at a company that thought their time off policy could do no wrong as it was a “policy of no policy,” meaning they allowed employees to take an unlimited amount of time off given the work gets done on time and with a high level of quality. This can be an amazing employee benefit, if clearly defined.
An employee at this company requested to take 8 weeks off during the summer off. At the time the request was made, there were no guidelines around length of consecutive time off. The employee thought nothing of the request because the summer was slow and they could still get all their work completed on time. The company, on the other hand, felt this was an unreasonable request and denied it. The employee was frustrated and unhappy because he understod the policy as having no limits. After this incident the company defined an extended time off benefit that addresses time off for periods of 6 weeks or more. Unfortunately, the damage was already done with this employee.
Whether you have a vacation or PTO policy, whether its an overly generous policy or one held more closely to the belt, having a well-defined time off policy can help promote employee retention and employee motivation. Your employee handbook should outline the policy and all the specifics around taking time, balances and the logistics.
When writing your policy consider the following qiestions:
- When are new hires eligible to begin taking time off?
- How does time off accrue? Does it increase based on length of service, position or some other measure? How is it pro-rated for part-time employees?
- What is the process for requesting time off? Are there requirements around how much time an employee can take in a row?
- What happens to unused time at the end of the year? Do you have a policy to payout employees for unused time? How much time can an employee carryover at the end of the year, if any?
- What will you do if an employee wants to take time they have not yet accrued?
- Keep in mind that any unused accrued time must be paid out to the employee upon termination. You may want to write your policy in a way that will not result in excessively high balances that require payout upon termination.
Once you’ve written and published your policy, the most important thing you can do it is stick to it. An employee policy that is constantly having exceptions made is not an effective policy and only breeds dissatisfaction among the employee and employer.
Photo credit iStockphoto
About the author: Nancy Saperstone has 20 years experience as an HR Generalist in varying industries and size organizations. Nancy joined InsightPerformance in 2004 where she is a Senior HR Consultant. Nancy holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development and a Masters of Education from Vanderbilt University. She is a member of the Society of Human Resource Management and Northeast Human Resource Association.
Sometimes, it’s the children who teach us the most and it’s no different for me and my 4-year-old daughter, Maggie.
Take a glimpse into two recent scenes from around our kitchen table:
“Maggie, you’re starting Pre-K in the fall! If you sleep in your own room all summer, we’ll take you to Disneyworld. Sound good?”
“YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! How long is that?”
“Let’s make a construction paper ring chain. You can tear one off every morning after you sleep in your own bed all night.”
Summer progresses. Mostly, rings were torn off. But we had a few slip-ups. We got down to 10 rings and 5 nights before our trip. I pulled 5 rings off while Maggie was at school one day. Maggie comes home, sees the chain, studies it silently for a long, long time and then goes to her room. I find her crying under the covers.
“You broke the chain! You broke it! I didn’t break it, I didn’t cheat!”
Many tears later I saw that, in her mind, by helping her I set her up to lose. I thought about all the times that, in order to accomplish a goal at work, I’ve helped my employees get something done. I most likely unknowingly made them feel that they’d done something wrong, and that they were to to blame for a hidden mistake that led to a change I made.
I saw that rather than tearing down the extra chains, I could have used this opportunity to teach Maggie something new. I’ll take the time, next time, to teach rather than do.
It’s dinner and only 2 nights until Disney. I take a napkin from the tray on the table and find an uneaten Flinstone vitamin from breakfast.
“Maggie, is this your vitamin?”
“No….I don’t LIKE those vitamins.”
“Maggie, do we tell fibs? And do we hide our vitamins, or do we eat them? Disney is only for people who take their vitamins and don’t tell fibs.”
“No, it’s not! You can’t change the rules! Disneyworld is for kids who sleep in their own beds, that was what you said! Now YOU’RE telling a fib! I’m going to tell Grandma!”
Well played, Maggie, well played. She caught me changing the goal in the middle of the incentive period, and further, she knew the company org chart well enough to go straight to the top. I know many managers who are guilty of this and I now see how much it damages trust and creates a perception that the manager either was lying or was incompetent in setting the goal in the first place.
Maggie was also able to deflect from her own accountabilities because of my screw-up.
So, I need to work on being more clear and consistent and I need to take the time to teach, rather than do. Why a 4-year-old can help me see these things so much more clearly than a CEO is a problem for another day. Thank goodness I’m learning at all. And soon I’ll be learning with a pair of mouse ears on my head.
Photo credit iStockphoto
I once participated in a team building effort for my facility’s management staff. The drive to build a more cohesive team included consultant led individual interviews, 360 degree feedback and an off-site group activity day.
During my individual interview, I wore gray pinstripe dress pants with a short sleeve turtleneck sweater. I was taken aback when the consultant offered unsolicited advice that she thought I dressed “too young.” I think what most caught me off guard was that the comment wasn’t followed up with any advice on what she thought would be suitable for the workplace.
My company’s dress code is business casual so I normally I stick to dress pants and a solid color button down shirt, throwing in some different accessories from time to time. If asked to critique my own workplace wardrobe I would say I consider myself fashionable but not “too young.”
The entire situation got me to thinking. What is the best way to handle unsolicited advice?
Considering my manager had never approached me about my attire and confident in my own abilities to dress myself as a grown woman, I decided to not put much merit into the consultant’s comment and not let it get me down.
During our careers we will all receive advice, feedback and criticism and some of it may very well be solicited and constructive. We shouldn’t be afraid to receive advice from others as it could play a part in helping us to grow as a professional. On the other hand if, and when, you do receive a piece of advice that you question, ask a valued colleague for their opinion on the matter. Finally, trust in yourself and have confidence in your own capabilities knowing that you made it this far in your career through hard work, experience and dedication.
And, when it’s all said and done, it’s your opinion that really matters most of all.
Photo credit iStockphoto
A couple weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about HR. He said that my job must be really difficult since no one trusts HR.
I always find this topic quite interesting because it’s true.
I was in a meeting around culture and inclusion at my employer and I was the “Lone HR Ranger” and there was a lot of beef about how people don’t trust HR.
So, with this is mind, I said to my friend:
“I don’t think there are a lot of people in my field who would admit to this, but I think people distrust HR because in most organizations HR serves management first, rather than the associate.”
I find this to be so incredibly true in my experience. Very rarely do we take the extra time to find out both sides to the story. We don’t create a 360-degree vision while solving employee relation issues. Sometimes the metrics speak for themselves: Are they meeting their numbers? Are customers complaining? Are they actually working? In those cases, fine, I get it. That’s clearly a performance management issue there. Case closed.
But, stepping back and thinking through conversations I’ve had with friends who don’t work in HR at my employer and with friends at other organizations, people flat out do not feel comfortable bringing issues to light to HR because they believe their job will be in jeopardy, no one will listen or the story will be turned around on them.
I personally find myself on the fence around this issue.
There isn’t a perfect answer. One side of me says, “HR is here for the employee.” The employee is obviously defined as management AND non-management. The “employee” is anyone who works for the employer. I’m not writing this because I feel like I have the answers. In fact, I don’t have any answers at all.
However, here are some things to think about:
- We have to create a 360-degree vision around employee-related issues in HR.
- How well do we honor the confidentiality of the employee? Are we giving them reason to not trust HR?
- Do we create a sense of safety so they feel like they CAN trust HR? How often have you received a phone call where the employee doesn’t even want to tell you his/her name?
- Are we listening as an ally with the employee? I mean, really listening. Listen first, talk second.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again, I do not have the answers and this is only my experience. So tell me – does your HR organization work mostly for management or the associate or BOTH?
Can HR be trusted?
Photo credit iStock Photo
It’s getting close to October 10 and that’s when my twins will turn 19 years old. Not unlike many parents, I think back to their arrival day and how they arrived 5 weeks early.
Looking back, I recall the enormous amount of faith I had in my doctor but I also how I relied heavily on my gut instincts. The first time I went into labor, I was 26 weeks pregnant. I called the doctor because I felt funny (yep, best words I had at the time) and the conversation went like this:
Doc: “Do you think you’re in labor?”
Me: “I have no idea – this is my first pregnancy, remember — I just know that something doesn’t feel right.”
Doc: “Meet me at the hospital.”
He trusted his gut with my response even though he had no idea I’d end up having a high-risk pregnancy. Sure enough, those babies were fighting to come out and continued to do so for weeks after that. We did this routine 5 more times through full-time bed rest, preeclampsia and sucking down meds to suppress contractions. I was terrified of the impact this stress and the medication would have on the babies – there was no WedMD at the time (which is probably a good thing, looking back!)
I had faith in my doctor but I never questioned my gut.
In our world, we have faith in many of the people around us. We have faith they will be responsible, make good decisions and do the right thing. When we take that chance and we’re proven right, it’s a good reinforcement that people generally have a desire to do well for themselves and for others.
As for me, it goes against all I want to believe in to even think that people have negative intentions, but I’d also be an idiot if I believed it didn’t exist. That’s when we revert back to what our gut is saying.
I don’t believe that trusting our gut instinct is the equivalent of taking a chance. When we trust ourselves, and our experiences, we have a higher probability of being spot on most of the time.
My question to you is this:
Have you ever had a time in your life – whether it’s at the office or with a personal matter when the faith you had in someone collided with what your gut was telling you?
It doesn’t always need to be a massive, earth shattering moment – but you immediately know it when it happens. You just sit back in your chair, open up your mental manuscript of “life experiences” and add a new chapter.
Did that experience cause you to be more cynical of people going forward or do you continue to have faith in people?
I do continue to have faith in people but when the voice of my instinct speaks to me, I hear it loud and clear and adjust accordingly.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions.