How to Tell When No One Trusts Each Other at a Company

How to Tell When No One Trusts Each Other at a Company
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Here’s an easy test of whether people trust each other at your company. Do you have a regular status meeting with several teams? The kind where you go around the table, giving updates? Next time you have one, notice whether anyone ever gives bad news from their teams. Does anyone ever say they missed a deadline or misunderstood something?

I’m talking specifically about a team admitting fault. It doesn’t count if their delivery date got pushed out because of another team—it’s very easy to admit that. If you go around the table and everyone consistently says that things are going great and anything that does go wrong was out of their hands, your teams do not trust each other, and they do not trust the manager. Full stop.

Here’s another test: how much do teams enjoy blaming each other? One of my clients is an organization that has two technical organizations, one that works on a national level and one that works for an internal group. Both tech groups are very similar. A developer hired into the company could have easily been hired into either group. In other words they are twin teams. But they fucking hate each other. I’m not joking. They have many layers of management between them, and each group will refuse to go to the same meetings if the other one is there.

The devs in one group have been employed for decades at this organization, but they delight in saying that they would quit if the groups were ever merged. Nothing excites them more than when their work is blocked by the foibles of the other group.

Why does it matter that they’re not trusting? Because if teams don’t trust each other, you will usually fail to deliver, or you will deliver something that no one wants.

If teams have been punished before for failing, they won’t admit that things might be going badly. If teams have stuck their necks out for each other, failed, and then gotten blamed for breaking protocol, they will never try to help each other again. And you’ll have a lot of status meetings where everything is “going well” until the very last moment, when suddenly everything is on fire. If your organization never tolerates failure, you will get nothing but failure every time.

A trusting organization knows that failure can happen when you try something new. It has managers who don’t try to fudge the numbers when they don’t get the answers they want from their teams. It knows that the best way to avoid fires is to empower people to ask for help when things are going badly. It’s easy to tell when you don’t have a trusting organization. But how do you fix it? Not sure yet. That’s for another blog post.

If you’re interested in learning more ways to optimize your team, improving communication is a great first step. Our free guide highlights five essential steps to restoring effective team communication that you can start using today. 


Madelyn Freed

Madelyn Freed

Senior Software Developer

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