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The Cycle of Distrust and How to Break It

The Great Resignation that is plaguing our world today is a direct result of distrust in the workplace and in life. With a country and a world completely polarized and a culture of leaders who don’t keep their promises, can you blame people for not wanting to trust those around them? This viral distrust spreads not only through work, but our personal lives as well. Divorce rates are at an all-time high, younger generations are being forced to grow up faster than ever to protect themselves from the influence constantly surrounding them, and people are starting their own businesses rather than trusting someone else to lead them. The distrust in the world is significant, and although it won’t be solved overnight, creating a workplace where people feel safe and comfortable is a good place to start. Happiness at work bleeds into life and happiness in life bleeds into work.

If we are going to create a trusting environment in the workplace, we must first start at the root of the distrust. The cycle of distrust at work can be top-down or bottom-up. Starting from the bottom, we have an employee from a younger generation who has learned throughout their life not to trust authority. They have grown up in a world that’s constantly falling apart at the seams and have been forced to sit on the sidelines and watch it happen because they were too young to vote, overlooked by older generations as too “rebellious”, or were lost in a sea of voices on social media all saying different things. They join the workforce and hope to finally be respected as an adult, to finally have their voice heard. On their first day, they get a list of to-dos from a boss that sees them not as a hard-working adult with a degree, but as a kid from a defiant generation. The employee takes all these to-do’s and starts to work diligently, wanting to prove themself, but the boss micromanages the employee and constantly berates them for taking the initiative to try something different or having new ideas because “their methods have worked for all these years for a reason.” The employee doesn’t have a voice, doesn’t have autonomy, and doesn’t trust their boss, so they stop doing work. They think that since the boss wants to micromanage, they can just do it themselves. Eventually, the employee gets fired or quits, a percentage start their own thing, and others go from company to company hoping to find a magical solution and fall into despair when they don't.

On the flip side, looking at things from the top down, we see a boss who hires an employee from a younger generation notoriously known to be lazy, insubordinate, and disrespectful of authority. They assign the employee tasks and they try to change things rather than do exactly what the boss said. They seem ambitious, but to an extent that seems disrespectful to authority. The boss starts to micromanage, as they don’t trust the employee to get the work done or to get it done correctly. Because they start to micromanage, the employee stops doing their work, reinforcing the boss’s distrust and negative beliefs about the younger generation. There is a lack of respect on both sides, which leads to the boss firing the employee or the employee quitting and the boss refusing to hire anyone else that is young or inexperienced. People who are young and inexperienced then can’t find jobs and resort to creating them or settling for mediocre careers that they dislike instead. The boss can no longer find anyone to take a job with their company, and the employees they do have are unhappy and dissatisfied. With fewer employees, work gets harder, the budget gets tighter, and there is no time to try to improve the workplace culture. Employees no longer trust their boss, the boss no longer trusts their employees, and the cycle repeats itself.

So how do we break this cycle of distrust in the workplace? Let’s start at the beginning. The young employee starts their job with the desire to have a voice. They have fresh ideas, a new perspective, and are thrilled to finally be a part of something bigger than themselves. If the company they work for already has a culture instilled that allows everyone's voice to be heard, that trusts each person to keep their agreements and get their job done, and that provides a healthy balance of work and life, the employee is going to want to work hard to live up to the culture already created. If they see everyone trusting each other, they will want to be trusted. If they feel heard and respected, they will not only produce the results asked of them, but go above and beyond, suggesting new and innovative ideas that will improve the business.

From the top, the boss works hard to surrender control and allow their employees to do the jobs they agreed to do. Without the extra workload of micromanaging everyone, the boss can take time to create a culture that is healthy and balanced. They have space to hear and implement new ideas and ensure that their employees are happy with what they are doing. With a healthy organizational culture, the business will grow and thrive, new employees will be hired, and the trust between boss, employee, and coworker will spread.

A healthy organizational culture is more important now than ever before. If you want your business to thrive, you have to create an environment where the people within your business can succeed. Employees who are happy and properly motivated will be more productive and produce higher quality work. Mutual respect and alignment between boss and employees promote this motivation and productivity. It starts at the top. If you are a leader, it is your job to set your employees up for success. Build a framework in which they can grow and succeed, and step back to let them do it. Like a parent watching their child grow up and enter the real world, you have to surrender control and trust that you have hired the right people and have given your employees all the tools they need to prosper. In order to trust your employees, your must trust yourself; then let it grow to the people around you, and watch the world change.\

It is KeenAlignment’s mission to create healthy organizational cultures and environments in which employees feel liberated to thrive. If you feel stuck in the cycle of distrust, reach out to one of our experts or sign up for one of our many programs and retreats to break the cycle and watch your company succeed. This September we are holding our Ignite Your Power Leadership Retreat where we train individuals to tap into their inner power and become the leader they’ve always dreamed of. Click the link below or check out our website to learn more. Change starts with you.


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