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Building Trust in the Workplace: A Case Study

Trust can be built and re-built. Here's a case study

Without trust, very little gets accomplished, especially in today’s lean organizations, where people with seniority are often required to work for “their juniors” on projects. Without a culture of kindness, bruised egos can lead to a hostile workplace.

It seems simple enough, but learning how to promote kindness in your office can be tricky, mostly because there is no formula, no sure-fire way to make it happen. A culture of kindness depends on people, and sometimes people aren’t reliable.

Pride and ego get in the way

I once worked for a small TV network. Our production team consisted of seven producers, two production coordinators, and several editors. We didn’t have the budget for every producer to have their own show, so sometimes a producer had to take a backseat to another’s vision. They sometimes had to swallow their pride and work on the show as a camera operator or an editor.

God forbid a senior producer had to work on a junior producer’s show—it was a blow to the ego for some of them. This arrangement caused resentment, unhealthy competitiveness, and harsh criticism. Hence  we had to read a book called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Building trust through positivity

Out of the five dysfunctions in the book has always stuck with me: the “absence of trust.” I think of it as, “not believing the best in one another.”  

For example: if a senior producer (SP) went into working on a project believing that the junior producer (JP) wasn’t going to succeed, then of course the project would be difficult from the beginning. The JP would feel the SP’s disapproval and judgment and if that didn’t make him in turn resentful, it would deflate him. This leads me to my first tip on how to promote kindness:

Believe the Best in One Another: Choose to believe that your coworkers are capable, and their motives are honorable. Choose to trust another person until they prove otherwise. Even if they do mess up, try to understand why. There’s always going to be someone who wants to stir the pot, but don’t be that person. Positivity is contagious and people will catch on. If we can trust one another, and believe the best in each other, we will not only promote kindness, but will encourage one another to succeed.

Lead by example and watch change ensue

Richard was a producer that I loved working with. He was down to earth, good at his job, confident in his work, and happy with his success. He was all of those things without being cocky or arrogant. Richard was not only happy with his own success, but you could tell he genuinely was happy for his coworkers’ wins as well. He helped other producers (JPs! Gasp!) with their projects in a way that empowered them. He encouraged everyone in that office to be better, simply by celebrating what they had already done.

You wanted to be on his team, because you knew everyone that worked on a project with him would walk away as friends, and would be empowered by each others success. Richard embodied the second tip for promoting kindness:

Celebrate Each Other’s Success: If we can be happy instead of jealous or resentful over one another’s success in the workplace, it will not only promote kindness but will create success for the entire company. 

You can’t force people to be kind—that defeats the point. It’s like the silly saying, “The beatings will continue until morale improves!”  

What you can do is lead by example, which is probably the most important tip, and the most simple. Start within yourself. Evaluate your attitude towards your coworkers, and your reactions to their wins. 

It may seem impossible, but you can choose to change your view. You could be the catalyst to change your office into a place where people are kind to one another.

Lissie Shaver

Lissie Shaver is a contributing writer at