If you have been to a team bonding retreat, you have likely played a version of the trust fall game. The point is to encourage team members to feel safe relying on each other. This is because trust is a key ingredient for high performance teams.
When teams have trust there is less friction and more collaboration. On the other hand, the lack of trust in a team can have dire effects on the company’s performance and employee wellbeing. Here are some tell-tale signs that there is lack of trust in a team.
There is fear of conflict
When teammates don’t trust each other, it means that conversation and feedback cannot be candid and difficult questions cannot be asked. While it is important for team members to get along and collaborate, they should also feel safe to disagree constructively.
A team is made up of people with different perspectives, personalities and experiences. Indeed when a team is being assembled, it should be with the intention to bring different skill sets together. It is inevitable that these people will disagree or conflict.
Healthy conflict leads to presentation of different ideas and the interrogation of those ideas. This process will result in better solutions. However, if you observe that members do not challenge each other or that they just go along with whatever is presented, there could be a lack of trust in the team.
To support healthy discourse, team members should be equipped with conflict resolution training.
The team is afraid to take risks
If you find that no one on the team is willing to share new ideas or everyone is afraid to innovate, lack of trust may be the underlying issue. Taking risks means that there is a need for someone to take responsibility and that there is a chance of failure. People might be afraid to try new things when there is no trust that team mates will stand by each other or worse, a fear their manager will penalise them.
Underpinning the ability to take risks in teams is psychological safety. This is the belief team members have that they will not be ridiculed or punished if they put forward new ideas, concerns or questions.
There is a lack of communication
If your Monday morning meetings are spent catching people up on what everyone is doing because teammates do not share information, there could be a lack of trust in the team.
A team should be working together to achieve a common goal. If they do not communicate they cannot do this. Lack of communication slows work down and prevents issues from being neutralised before they become critical.
You might also find that a lack of communication is bred by management. When information doesn’t trickle down or when managers only share with some employees, it can build a lack of trust in teams.
There are silos
Closely related to a lack of communication is the formation of silos. You may find that one group is unwilling to share information with another. They may even associate with only their group. This type of behaviour may lead to the formation of hierarchies, with one group feeling they are more important than another one. This may in turn breed unhealthy competition.
When there is unhealthy competition, one group may withhold information, resources and decline to give assistance because they believe by doing so, they will cede their praise to another group. In such cases, managers will need to look at the company culture to tackle this lack of trust in a team.
There is micromanaging
When team leaders cannot trust their employees to perform their tasks, they will micromanage. Leaders who micromanage over supervise, they assign roles and then take them over. This lack of trust will in turn lead team members to lose trust in their own abilities. Employees will cease to take initiative on tasks or to offer their skills when asked.
Micromanaging doesn’t only impact the employees. Because leaders who micromanage have a lack of trust in their team, they will take on more than they can handle. This will lead to burnout, unbalanced schedules as well as a reduction in productivity. If they spend all their time correcting other peoples’ tasks, they will have no time to do their own.
Team members are not given opportunities
In a team where there is trust, team members are given opportunities and visibility. A team leader has no problem asking a junior member to give a presentation to the bosses. A manager feels confident in letting one of the team members lead an important client pitch.
When there is a lack of trust in a team, you may find that there are some superstars who are always given the juicy opportunities. Or that when there is a client meeting, team members are never invited.
Lack of trust in a team stagnates the growth of team members and compromises the longevity of a business.
Low desire to participate in company events
Another sign of lack of trust in a team are disengaged team members. This will be exhibited both in the execution of tasks and in any after work activities organised by the company.
If they do not trust each other, team mates will avoid spending any time together that they do not absolutely have to. You will observe a low turnout for non-mandatory events. And if they do show up, they would rather sit in the corner on their phones.
Trust is an important ingredient for success and wellbeing of any team. It can be undermined by policies, toxic culture and individuals. However, just as easily as trust can be eroded it can be rebuilt.
Examining team composition and investing in team bonding are remedies that can be implemented to improve team trust. In addition, there should be a commitment from both team leaders and senior management to invest in tactics that continuously improve and maintain trust in teams.