Does Your Organization Have a Trust Problem?

Interview with Paul Zak

What do you see when you look around your workplace? Are there faces of boredom and disinterest, colleagues slouched over their work desks, talk of applying for other jobs, or lack of enthusiasm for the projects at hand? Wonder how to turn this around? Could engendering more trust hold the key?

“Building trust can give you supercharged teams and multiply your business outcomes,” said Professor Paul Zak from Claremont Graduate University and author of Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies, when I interviewed him recently. “Trust is powerful because it captures what we really want whenever we work in a group — people who care about us and who we care about, and a sense of what we are doing having an impact on the world.”

We are each wired to be social, so how we’re treated and how we treat others at work can have an impact on our brains. For example, Paul has found that building a culture of trust can make a big difference to your own wellbeing and your organization’s bottom line. When you work in a high-trust organization you’re likely to have more energy at work, collaborate with your colleagues, be more productive, perform better and are less likely to leave for other employment. You’re also less likely to experience chronic stress, and overall feel happier with your life.

Paul’s research has found that when you experience trust a feel-good jolt of oxytocin surges through your brain and triggers your motivation to reciprocate. This also helps you to actively build relationships at work where you can feel confident that others will do what they say they’ll do and that others have your back. So, even when you make mistakes you’re comfortable in the knowledge that your hard work is still valued, and your failures are recognized as just an essential part of innovation.

In reality though, often you can be part of a workplace with people you don’t know very well and yet you need to work cooperatively with them on projects. The good news is, Paul says that you have the neuro-machinery to form trustworthy relationships quickly if you get the correct neuro-signals and suggests that there are eight factors that characterize high trust organizations (represented by the acronym OXYTOCIN):

“The neuroscience gives you a framework to understand that you can get the most leverage to create trust by improving these eight factors for the biggest impact on brain behavior,” says Paul.

How can you make this work for you?

Paul gives three suggestions for building more trust in your organization.

What can you do to boost the trust and oxytocin in your organization?



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