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Building a Culture of Trust within the Organization
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 12/22/2014

Trust Today’s society is suffering the same phenomena as those who work inside prisons. There appears to be a lack of trust between the public and law enforcement that has driven a wedge between them which seems to be getting wider by the day. Not pertinent to all communities, it shows a serious problem developing as trust is an intangible value that is needed to get the job done and get it done right.

One has to ask, how do you trust someone inside of prison? From the moment we graduate from the academy we are told “don’t trust anyone” and we stay on our toes so we don’t get burned. It creates fear and paranoia that is real because of the dire consequences inside such a place as a penitentiary. Can you afford to let your guard down enough to trust someone? The answer is “yes”, you can.

The possibility to build a culture of trust amongst each other as employees can be done. However, it doesn’t happen overnight and it takes a team effort to do it. The beginning block for this trust foundation is to recognize that everybody must be involved in the decision-making and bringing information to the front without deceptive or alternative motives.

Feedback is ultimately the most important element of the trust block as it builds ownership and a voice in the organizational direction and priorities. Supervisors need to build on communication skills and empathy for their subordinates. They should be transparent and available to assist more rather than to discipline them.

Trust should not just be a word tossed around without meaning. It should be established with credibility and reciprocated by managers and those in authority to protect staff and allow contributions to the workplace. Trust is created when all employees are created equal roles and receive equal respect for their jobs and contributions. Never play favorites and ignore those who need help or extra training in their jobs. If you offer, it shows earnestness and caring qualities often lacking but very much appreciated without saying so.

There is a lot of value in the word “consistent” as it avoids confusion and elevates trust levels in time where the behaviors display successful expectations. Rewarding individuals plays a big part of leadership and offering to be a mentor or coach gives them the confidence to know help is there if they need it. Mentorship should include rewards, incentives and suggestions to improve performances.

Last but not least is the role of logistic support for employees to ensure they have the needed resources to get the job done or fulfill their assigned duties and responsibilities. Losing faith and trust is quickly weakened when the organization fails to provide the help needed to be successful. It must be part of their culture to set higher values for those who work there. It impacts morale and performance directly.

If this means improving the technology, this should be addressed and discussed. Even if it can’t be done, the fact the company discussed it, asked for feedback and recognized the value of the feedback, it gives the employees some comfort to know their needs are recognized and allows for future discussions on various topics.

These kind of discussions holds management accountable and aware of your needs so it can be implemented at a future time and promotes transparency that impacts communications and decision-making processes. Collaborative management styles are very effective in building trust and ownership. It shows values are important and bonds groups together rather than apart.

This is most important where there are shifts or groups with boundaries as they tend to avoid working with others outside their “domain.” Once communication and bonds are created in a seamless manner, much of these territorial squabbles will disappear and trust becomes a value shared and recognized by many. In time, the organization will all be on the same page and knows what the left hand is doing as well as working effectively with the right hand.

Corrections.com author, Carl ToersBijns, (retired), has worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Carl’s prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."

Other articles by ToersBijns:


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