Nurturing trust

The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time for us, as individuals, to take stock of things past and to set ourselves goals for the future. Why not then also make it a time where collectively, as CERN contributors, we choose to reflect on our everyday interactions and decide on ways in which we might contribute to fostering general wellbeing and a respectful workplace spirit around us. 

If we take the type of issues that were raised in the Ombud Office over the last year as an indicator of areas for improvement in the Organization, we see that the most difficult situations faced by colleagues were those where working relationships had been worn down by persistent conflict and disrespectful behaviour leading ultimately to a complete breakdown of trust between the parties concerned.

Whether the points of contention stemmed from within the hierarchical relationship or between peers, a large number of issues came down to a perceived lack of fairness, an unwillingness to listen and a lack of true dialogue. Examples reported by colleagues included situations of being publicly undermined, incorrectly judged, labelled or excluded from key activities, all of these often amplified by inappropriately aggressive language and behaviour.

Trust is an essential ingredient in all-working relationships and honest, open communication and consistent behaviour are fundamental to its growth. It is built and maintained by many small actions over time, and once destroyed, it can take a long time to restore. To be considered trustworthy, however, we also need to be seen to have the best interests of those concerned at the heart of all our interactions. Indeed, people’s perceptions play a very important part in building trust and mutual respect and an understanding of the impact of our behaviour on others are key steps in the process.

Trust is about being authentic, telling the truth even when it is difficult, while at the same time being open to challenge our own ways of thinking and to adjust our behaviour as needed. It is fragile and needs to be constantly nurtured, but once assured, it is the cornerstone of good working relationships and motivation.

When trust breaks down, however, working relationships start to suffer and teams stop working in harmony. It is therefore very much in all our interests to be proactive and seek ways to build and reinforce trust in all our interactions.

To do so, we could start by holding up a mirror to see how our own behaviour measures up to the tried and trusted ways of building trust through the four pillars of reliability, integrity, expertise and good will. And what better time can there be for this than the beginning of a new year when we have just returned from a well-earned break with renewed energy and positive resolutions?

Nurturing trust is to nurture relationships, and, as the DG said in the concluding slide of her New Year presentation: “Its all about respect” and working in line with the values of the Organization. 

Sudeshna Datta-Cockerill

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