In order to get things done effectively, workers must communicate. To communicate effectively, workers must trust each other. While the trust dynamics in your workplace may seem personal and unimportant, in truth these dynamics play a major part in factors ranging from employee happiness to overall productivity, according to the website ThePeopleGroup.com. Because trust can have a major impact on your business' success, putting effort into building trust between your workers is never a wasted effort.
Few people like to take blame, but for a truly trusting dynamic to exist in your workplace, workers need to be willing to step up and admit mistakes they have made. Often, admitting big mistakes -- like being largely responsible for losing a client -- is easier if you first practice admitting small missteps such as not making more coffee when you noticed the pot was empty. Provide practice by engaging your workers in a responsibility-taking exercise. Try out one simple to implement activity of this type by giving each worker an index card. Ask each to write down something she has done wrong in the last year. It could be something major, if she is keen to share, or something minor. Form a circle and go around it, sharing the information from the cards.
To trust their co-workers, everyone in your office must realize that they share common characteristics. If you can make a worker see that she has more in common with the lady who plays her music too loud three cubicles down, you can improve the degree to which she trusts the other employee. Help colleagues see the similarities they share with others within the office by completing an activity focusing on a highly personal topic such as fears. Give each employee three slip of paper and ask her to write down one thing she is scared of on each slip. These things can be work-related or otherwise. Model the activity first by writing down three of your fears. Include something playful -- like spiders or zombies -- and something more serious, like losing your job. After employees have filled out their slips, have them place them in a hat or basket. Pull them out and read them, taping them to the wall and putting ones that mirror each other in clusters so employees can see pattern development.
Let’s Get Physical
If your workplace is full of employees who seem to possess boundless energy, make your trust building task a physical one. By engaging employees in this must-move activity, you not only give them an opportunity to move, but force them to touch their co-workers, something that in and of itself is trust building in nature. Have workers create and untangle a human knot. Start by asking everyone to stand in a circle. Instruct them to move toward the center of the circle, tightening the shape. Have them put their hands in the center of the circle and grab a different co-worker’s hand with each of their own hands. Next, ask employees to get to work untangling the knot they just created. Provide them little guidance but instead simply ask them to move around climbing over and under hands, spinning and doing whatever else they can to correct the mess.
Effective communication is vital to both establishing and maintaining trust. Tell workers they must be silent but can communicate in whatever other way they see fit. Then present them with an array of challenges, asking them to line up in order by birth month and day, by shoe size or by another other unobservable characteristic. As workers struggle to express themselves to their others, they will learn about effective communication.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.