Industry News

Lynn Hiscoe, MSW, RSW

Currently I am delivering a group program through our Vital Life programs in BC and the profound suffering I have encountered in this particular group is certainly beyond what I could have ever anticipated.

The root of the suffering appears to stem from a feeling of betrayal and lack of trust in their workplace. Understanding the complexity of trust and betrayal is very challenging and also intriguing. It is clear that the relationship to our workplace is no different than our own personal relationships in that it can allow us to thrive and flourish or it can disable us, disempower us and make us ill. What is also clear is how reciprocal these relationships are. They go back and forth like a force all of their own and our capacity for trust influences our perceptions and beliefs for ourselves, our colleagues, supervisors and the workplace itself.  

Trust is the glue that holds social networks and relationships together and is significant in effective workplace cultures. It is considered to be the result of several dispositions working in concert. These are integrity (or honesty and openness), concern (also called benevolence or personal regard for others), competence and reliability (or consistency). It is a fragile emotion and action, that can quickly be undermined and decimated, and conversely, needs to be actively worked on to be maintained and developed to a high trust model.

My role in this particular situation is to support building a trusting relationship among the participants in an intimate setting where we meet twice a month with the goal that the strengthening of these relationships will begin to saturate in their workplace. The workplace in this case, has been completely and literally violated and destroyed. Therefore the foundation from which these relationships exist must be built up slowly, thoughtfully, respectfully and securely. When working with groups such as this the focus in not on the individual but on the whole of the group, and in a situation where there is such suffering one struggles with the resistance to support those individually. However the strength comes from working with the group as a whole, such as one would do in a workplace.

Although we are not there yet, what we are hoping to accomplish is a sense of renewal of a new relationship that is based on trust among each of them. This takes an intense amount courage, optimism and hopefulness. Through this process we use the cognitive behavioral model focusing especially on self-care, behavioral activation, restructuring one’s thinking to being more optimistic and helpful, and on the importance of healthy and effective relationships.

In order to begin to transform the culture, the following actions were recommended.

Build a leadership team that will support the following:

•    Shield and support positive cultural elements and staff members;
•    Focus energy on the recruitment, selection and retention of positive, effective staff members and administration;
•    Help those who might succeed and thrive better in a new workplace;
•    Consciously focus on eradicating the negative and rebuilding around positive norms and beliefs;
•    Develop new stories of success, renewal and accomplishment;
•    Celebrate the positive and the possible.
•    Build trust, hopefulness, and encouragement especially for those suffering and who are vulnerable and fragile to the environmental stressors.  

What has been discovered in this process is that good leaders of people must have strong emotional intelligence. According to John D. Mayer and Peter Salovey, two of the leading researchers on the topic, emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as "the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions." A topic of discussion all on its own but one that is critical for all of us to take some time to reflect on.

Finally, strong positive workplace cultures of trust do not just happen, they are built over time by employees who are invested in a positive workplace relationships and in leaders who encourage and reinforce positive values and traditions by securing that foundation.

Lynn is the Regional Manager of our BC Division.