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When we ask, “Do you trust that colleague?”, there can be a number of levels to answering that question. Jill Garrett explored the language of trust at our City Women lunch held at Pinsent Masons on 16 September 2015. She encouraged us to engage, body, mind and spirit, to be community-builders in our workplace.

There are different aspects to building trust at work – there are a range of reasons why we might not trust a colleague to complete the work they’ve been set.

  • Capability: Does this person have the capability to complete this task, or it is honestly beyond their capability, because they simply don’t have the required skills?
  • Capacity: If someone has a huge workload already, they may have the capability to do a job they have been given, but do they honestly have the capacity to complete it?
  • Comprehension: It’s possible to misunderstand what’s required, even when we have both capability and capacity to do the work.
  • Character: And then there’s the element of character, as another variable. Jill divides this into two elements:
  1. Personality or Talent – what you can’t help doing: talents “happen like breathing”.
  2. Character – this is where there are values-based choices that cost, that involve going against “natural inclination” because it is the “right thing to do”.

What builds character varies from person to person. And whilst we judge ourselves by our motives, it’s easy for other people to judge us by our actions. Particularly when we are under pressure, we can assume the wrong motives: have you ever leapt to quick conclusions, when someone produces inadequate work and you decide you don’t trust them? It might be the wrong work (Stupid), late work (Lazy) or poor quality work (Lazy and Stupid).

We can draw deep wisdom for the workplace from words written to the church 2000 years ago. A modern translation of 1 Thessalonians 5 vv13-15 says:

“Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part.

Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet.

Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs.

And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other.

Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.”

Do we differentiate accurately between the freeloaders, the stragglers and the exhausted? Are we honestly patient with our colleagues, knowing them as individuals, attentive to their particular needs? We’re all different – we believe in a God where one size fits one – so we need to consider one another as unique individuals. “When” we get on each other’s nerves – we have to expect that this will happen – we need to choose our response, heeding the advice, “Don’t snap”. And above all, we should look for the best in one another, doing our best to bring it out.

Our God is a working God, who worked to create the world. And when he created humans, he made chemicals in our body that impact on our work. There are four main “feel good” chemicals:

  • Dopamine: This is the “Do it – reward” chemical, where we are satisfied by ticking an item off our list, by doing something and getting a bonus.
  • Endorphins: This is the “Hard stretch – reward” chemical that allows us to push on through the pain barrier to achieve a result.

Both Dopamine and Endorphins give us drive and motivation to help us get the job done. But they don’t last and they can become addictive. Out of a healthy balance, they can create a toxic working environment based on personal effort and reward which is never satisfied.

The other two “feel good” chemicals are social:

  • Seratonin: This gives feelings of safety, security, warmth and love. It’s the chemical that allows us to relax more when we work with teammates we know we can trust.
  • Oxytocin: This is the generosity chemical, that is triggered when we give time and energy selflessly.

This confirms that we were designed intelligently to build community and be human and humane! How about taking up the challenge to do one thing at work every day for the next fortnight that triggers Oxytocin, that’s selfless and generous?

And finally, a blessing for us in our places of work:

Bless us to identify and nuture relationships of trust,

which help us and others to live life to the full.

Bless us to have the courage to warn the freeloaders,

the compassion to reach out to the exhausted and

the awareness gently to encourage the stragglers,

being attentive to one another as individuals.

Bless us to be people who help to build a community at work, a culture of trust at work,

looking for the best in each other and always doing our best to bring it out.

There’s lots to draw on here, both for the head and the heart. If you’d like to discuss any of this further, do get in touch and we can arrange to meet up.

Sarah Thorpe and 0798 224 8949

Steve Bavington and 0796 682 3605

Jill Garrett of Tentpeg Consulting is an executive coach and leadership consultant; she has worked as a secondary school head teacher and was Managing Director of Gallup Organisation for Europe. She works with leaders and teams in a range of sectors, including Housing Associations, Church of England Bishops, Hospitality and Finance.