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A currency to give or earn?

Trust at work

In every office and at every desk, a silent question lingers in the air, affecting decisions, relationships, and ultimately, success—should trust among colleagues be given freely or should it be earned like a badge of honor? For professionals navigating the complexities of workplace dynamics, it’s about understanding the unspoken glue that could bind or break the fabric of everyday teamwork.

The act of trusting is deeply rooted in our biology. When you trust someone, oxytocin, commonly known as the ‘bonding hormone,’ floods your brain, encouraging you to reciprocate. It’s like nature’s way of helping you get along and work together, something it’s been doing for ages. Now, if you lean into this natural instinct, you realize that typically giving trust first actually leads to more trust. But does this natural impulse really work at work, where it’s not just about getting along but also about hitting targets and making the numbers?

Traditional wisdom and skeptics hold steadfast that trust has to be earned. It’s something we’ve all heard before. There’s some solid reasoning behind being careful about who you trust, especially when a bad choice could mess up your career or shake up your job life. But, sticking too hard to this idea might mean missing out on what can happen when you decide to trust a bit more freely right from the start.

However, stepping into vulnerability by trusting first is not about naivete. It’s an intentional strategy. When you decide to trust someone at work, it’s like sending up a signal that says, “Hey, let’s talk, share new ideas, and really listen to each other without worrying that we’re being judged or second-guessed.” It sets the stage for an environment where mutual respect is the norm rather than the exception.

Yet, granting trust does not exclude accountability. Indeed, it invites a higher form of it. By giving trust, you’re also defining the framework within which it operates. You’re encouraging your colleagues to rise to the occasion, cognizant of the faith placed in them. In turn, a culture of accountability blossoms, not from fear, but from the desire to honor the trust vested in each person.

Ultimately, the give-versus-earn debate might be missing the forest for the trees. Trust is not a zero-sum game. It’s a dynamic currency that changes and grows with each interaction. Giving trust initiates a cycle of trust-building that can later be cemented by consistent actions. Conversely, an environment where trust must continually be earned is one that risks being entangled in a perpetual proving ground, leading to exhaustion and regular skepticism.

In the end, the journey of building trust between two colleagues isn’t just about deciding who should trust first or who should earn it. It’s about recognizing that trust is the secret ingredient that can make working together smooth, effective, and even enjoyable. By embracing trust, you not only improve your working relationships and productivity but also contribute to creating a more supportive, innovative, and dynamic workplace environment. Trust, after all, is the cornerstone upon which successful teams and thriving businesses are built.

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