Trust IS the Glue (part 4)

What Comes First: Psychological Safety or Trust?

In my last LinkedIn post on this topic, a colleague, Bogdan Manta responded with the 5 drivers his company focuses on when it comes to employee engagement:

Choice / Autonomy | Fairness / Equity | Psychological Safety | Learn / Challenge | Voice / Recognition

I, in turn, responded to his comment with the following: “Bogdan, in looking at this list, I feel that Psychological Safety (PS) is the foundation for the other drivers.” I promised to explore this further in my next article and told him I’d love to have his feedback on this. He has promised to do so and I look forward to hearing his thoughts and yours as well.

To begin, I thought that trust and psychological safety are the same. In doing a deeper dive, I’ve come to the conclusion there are some differences but they are definitely interdependent.

In relation to the team or group experience, psychological safety is best defined as: “… a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes and the team is safe for inter-personal risk taking.” Amy Edmondson Or, in other words attributed to her: “the sense that we can share our feelings, beliefs, and experiences openly at work without fear of retribution, loss of status, or punishment”.

Trust is in relation to each other, how we view another. Psychological safety is the belief regarding the norms within the group. In other words: “Trust is personal; psychological safety is a group phenomenon.” I may trust you to get the job done or to be honest about a situation. But do I feel safe to admit when I’m wrong or have doubts about a project, that these will not be thrown back in my face.

With this deeper dive into trust, I discovered there are two elements to trust, which if both are present, builds the psychological safety of the group. Cognitive Trust, is the confidence one has in the abilities and reliability of the other to get the job done. It’s more ‘head based’ or rational. Affective Trust is more heart based and is described as “mutual interpersonal care and concern or emotional bonds”. Our behavior then, towards another, is fundamental in building trust. Both aspects of trust are needed to create a psychologically safe work environment with each other and within the group.

Recently, I facilitated a team session on building personal resilience. Someone expressed their desire to be able to speak freely when something is bothering them, when they’re feeling stressed. To be able to express feelings of overwhelm, when things aren’t going the way they were expected to, is of paramount importance in building a feeling of safety.

With this deeper dive, in looking at Bogdan’s list of drivers to promote Employee Engagement, then I have to say this can’t be achieved without psychological safety as the foundation. Or is it the chicken and egg metaphor? When all the other drivers are in place, then you’ve created a psychologically safe work environment in which employees thrive?

Starting the conversations, listening with and expressing empathy, having an open mind and leaving judgments out of the conversation are just a few essential ways to build this safety. Be curious, be open, be courageous, be non-judgmental. Who then is going to start the conversation? In the words of a Ready for Female Leadership co-author, Archana Wuntakal, ‘if not you, then who?’.

Administrative Professionals’ Day April 16th 2020

A great way to say ‘thank you’!
In the month of April, show your professional administrative support staff just how much you value their contribution. You can do it with flowers and chocolates but an inspirational ‘Skogsfloating’ day is saying thank you, in a more meaningful way.

The ultimate combi
A day to be nurtured in nature and to become inspired. During this day, your staff will have ‘their time in the sun’, perhaps also literally, should the sun decide to shine. One thing is certain, it will be a memorable day.


A playful location
Conference center Kapellerput in Heeze, provides the playful location, as a background to Skogsfloating. Standing in the midst of a beautiful woods, the gently rocking ‘chairs’, aided by Mother Nature, provide the foundation for relaxation, reflection and creativity – key words for the day. The accompanying experience of tranquil weightlessness gives the space and time to become ‘still’ – to give back to oneself.

Open Registration on April 16th, 2020 **
The day starts at 09.30 with coffee and tea. Most of the day will be spent outside. The program will end at 17.00. Further details will be provided upon registration.

This ‘experiential day’ is 380,- pp, excl. vat/btw, for a minimum of 6 participants.  Price is including a day arrangement at Kapellerput (unrestricted coffee, tea and lunch buffet).

Use the contact page to get in touch with me,  with your name and telephone number. Copy ‘Administrative Professionals’ Day’, into the subject line.

This open registration day will be held in Dutch

** If you have a minimum of 6 administrative personnel (maximum is 22), there is an opportunity to host a closed registration team event in the month of April.


It’s Time to Wake-Up, Organizations!

Organizations need to wake-up. Employees are looking for more than just a paycheck. Job security is a thing of the past. The ‘war for talent’ is an oft-used expression, for good reasons. Nothing is, as it was before. It doesn’t make sense to pretend otherwise.

The Past
My father, if he were still alive, would be 106 years old now. He passed away at the age of 82. He was secure that the company he worked for, and was extremely loyal to, for 30 years up to his retirement and afterwards, would be there for him, year after year. And it was. My mother continued to receive a portion of his pension until her death at the age of 99, another 20 years later. Molson’s Brewery, started in 1786 in Montreal, Canada, is still there today. An M&A in 2005 with the US based Coors company, and the Molson Coors Brewing Company was formed. Beer is a staple. A good tasting beer, will stay its course (under the right direction, of course).

Even if Dad didn’t agree with decisions made, he would never have spoken out against the company that employed him. He lived in a different era, had 5 children and his wife to support. He was grateful for what his company offered him. As children, we learned this gratefulness also.

The Present
Young people today don’t have, and many don’t want, the kind of job security my father desired. They also don’t ‘buy’ into the work ethics of those who have been around for 20+ years, toeing the company line. Working against your personal values, causes stress. If an ‘anything goes’ attitude thrives in a corporate culture in order to achieve results, then they begin to doubt what role they want to ‘play’ in that business. Since there are currently a plethora of jobs, they can choose the kind of company they want to be employed by. In his Forbes article, The Power of Putting People First, Rasmus Hougaard states “shareholder wealth has steadily become more important than employee health”. If you don’t want to lose valuable talent, either to sick-leave or to the competitor, then you need to change some things.

The Solution
It starts with a culture of care. Putting people first, not profits. That’s not saying profits aren’t important. Only a fool would say that. What it does say, is that by putting people first, the profits are going to come.
Organizations can take a page out out of the mission of Marriott International’s, a Fortune 200 business: “If we take care of our people, they will take care of our customers, and the customers will come back.” Or another page from Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller Companies Inc, who states: “Our company exists for its employees”.

There are many aspects to consider when taking care of your people: values which live in the halls and not on the walls; a growth mindset at all levels; finding meaning and purpose; great communication skills; developing resiliency in stressful situations; and creating healthy life-style habits; just to name a few.

Together with the partners I collaborate with, we provide the best solutions for organizations to ensure employees are engaged and thriving!

Clarity About Pursuing Happiness at Work

In March this year, a few cities in the Netherlands acknowledged and celebrated Dutch Happiness Week. This is an initiative of Fontys University HRM and Psychology students, which began in 2015 in Eindhoven. A leading theme, ‘the economy of happiness’, in these departments was the motivation behind the initiative.

Last September, an initiative of two Dutch women saw the kick-off of the International Week of Happiness at Work. Throughout the Netherlands, a number of municipalities and organizations sponsored various events around this theme. This year it will grow, I’m sure. I hope. We certainly put enough attention to the problem each year in November, with the Week of the Work Stress. For good reason, as stress is the number one occupational challenge in the workplace in the Netherlands.

A misperception of happiness at work?

But what is this often elusive state of happiness in the work space actually? It seems many of us are in pursuit of it but defining it seems to be a bit more problematic.

When one of our KVC app respondents replied to a question regarding their happiness at work score (6/10) with ‘I don’t really emotionally recognize the feeling of happiness’, it set me to thinking. Are we misleading people with the concept of happiness at work?

It’s not that I believe we shouldn’t be expecting to be happy in our work. To the contrary – I believe it’s fundamentally necessary for thriving employees and workplaces. It’s just that I question whether people understand what’s behind the phrase ‘happiness at work’.

Happy people are portrayed in advertising, television and movies with smiling, laughing faces, having loads of fun. Is this somehow the perception people expect to see in the workplace, if they are truly happy at work?

Often employers think, they’re getting a paycheck aren’t they? They should be happy with that. And maybe in my parent’s generation (or even my own, seeing I’m now in my mid-60’s) that was the case. However, younger generations aren’t ‘buying’ that platitude anymore. They know that money can’t buy their happiness.

Adding to the confusion

The word for happiness in Dutch is ‘geluk’. It has two meanings. One is happiness and the other is luck. So ‘gelukkig werken’ is a concept that doesn’t seem to resonate for many Dutch.

Turning to the research

We need to understand that happiness is a state of being which is a natural consequence of well-being. And “well-being is a complex construct that concerns optimal experience and functioning.”

It’s not only about ‘hedonic well-being’ portrayed by the media: that of “increased pleasure and decreased pain leads to happiness”.

It’s also about ‘eudaimonic well-being’, which is “based on the premise that people feel happy if they experience life purpose, challenges and growth.”

What is needed for a thriving workplace?

One of our partners, the HappinessBureau, has created the P3F model. This about sums up what is needed.

Purpose: You are happier at work when you have the feeling the work you do is meaningful and you are making a positive contribution.

Flow: Every day you are able to use your talents, see progress and receive recognition and appreciation. Autonomy plays a significant role in how you use your talents. Being immersed and absorbed in the task at hand, is part of flow.

Fun & Friendship: Maintaining good relationships at work and sharing (in) positive moments.

In summary

Happiness@Work is about how you ‘feel’ about your work and the feelings you derive from your work. If you ‘feel’ you are contributing, are valued, are seen, are appreciated, well then, you can give yourself a 10/10 for your happiness@work score.
Most organizations have a long way to go, to ensure their people are thriving. Step up sooner, rather than later, is my advice. The war for talent isn’t going away any time soon.