Is Peer Distrust Troubling Your Projects?

Fostering Peer Trust

When team members don’t trust each other, we tend to see a variety of dysfunctional conduct.

Trust is of vital importance for leaders. Equally critical is the trust between colleagues.

Following is a short list of signs of distrust, all impacting projects negatively.  If you witness one or more regularly, expect that  peer distrust  is alive and well in your organization. If you see these behaviors repeatedly, expect them to be contributing to performance gaps.

  • Exclusions from meetings
  • Lack of information sharing
  • Decisions being questioned
  • Tension in relationships
  • Defensive behavior
  • Gossip and complaining
  • Teams not taking risks

When we examine team trust, we look at four different aspects.  Within each of these aspects, we can isolate behaviors that result in distrust.  Understanding these can help us improve trust in our teams.


We evaluate the skill level of our colleagues.  This is based on competence and what contribution one makes to the team.  It includes the quality and timeliness of work.  If progress is not as planned, we make a judgment. Based on our observations we decide whether our colleagues have what it takes and whether they do as they say.

Meeting or exceeding your commitments will go a long way toward becoming a trusted team member.


Next we judge our team mates based on their willingness to commit, the consistency they show, their transparency and honesty. Their personal conduct is key, including one’s ability to deal with challenges.  We also evaluate the degree of flexibility with which they operate and willingness to negotiate changes that occur.  If they act doubtful, we don’t feel comfortable.

Improve this aspect by treating your team members the way you expect to be treated.  


Following we examine co-workers based on the motivation that we perceive. We assess whether their intentions and actions are focused on the team or on self.  Often we find that team member are supporting a functional group or sub-culture instead of the team effort. Any questionable motivation harms trust significantly.

There should be no doubt that you are focused on the team win.  Ensure that your actions are unambiguous.


The final aspect is that of connection and the ability to relate to others. Here we evaluate people based on their action toward us and others. Anything from tone (verbal or email), vocabulary choice and body language can impact our views.  Much of this habitual and most people are unaware what messages they are sending.

Take a self-assessment on how you may be perceived. If a team mate is in need of greater self- awareness, find a gentle way to let them know.

Trust will take time to build, so coach your team to begin today.  Simple course corrections to daily behaviors will increase team trust leading to improved collaboration, reduced stress and increased productivity.

He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted.  Lao Tzu


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