Study shows that 73% of Brits are too polite to tell colleagues or business partners that they do not trust them
A survey of over 2000 workers and managers for The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) has found that 54% of Britons believe it’s a fact of life that you have to work with people you do not trust.
Conflict avoidance is rife, with 73% of respondents saying that they would never tell someone that they don’t trust them, primarily to ‘avoid conflict’ and maintain ‘good practice’.
“Trust is not absolute. We hear of tolerance as being a virtue but to tolerate means accepting something which you would prefer not to. Furthermore just because someone is tolerated does not mean effective collaboration takes place and poses the ‘Collaboration-Trust Conundrum’. A situation where people are working together in blissful ignorance that there is not genuine trust should be thought of as a ‘conlaboration’ rather than a true collaboration,” said Dr Karl Mackie, CEDR CEO.
Unexpected perceptions of risk, gender and communication in relation to collaborative working were also uncovered by the study. Further details of these findings can be found at www.cedr.com/foundation/collaboration.
The survey is part of CEDR’s foundation activity, looking to understand issues around collaboration and develop new collaborative capabilities for business leaders.
82% believe face-to-face meetings to be ‘vital’ or ‘helpful’ in enabling successful collaboration, whereas technology-based forms of communication and networking are deemed far less helpful. Most people viewed instant messaging or project management tools as being either ‘unhelpful’ or only ‘neutral’, a minority of 40% of respondents valued this sort of technology.
The survey showed that as impersonal contact decreases, so too does faith in its ability to aid collaboration, with only 27% believing social networks are ‘helpful’ or ‘vital’ in the work environment.
‘Gender’ is generally not perceived to have an affect on collaboration, yet when quizzed about specific collaborative factors, more than half (56%) perceived women to have higher levels of ‘emotional intelligence’ and 39% said men are better at confronting conflicts objectively.
Men are also perceived to exhibit greater consistency in behaviour by both males (43%) and females (31%) and also for being better at ‘stepping up to the plate’ or ‘assuming a leadership role’ when required. Whereas men and women (34% overall) agreed women were better at ‘acknowledging co-workers and giving credit where due’.
“The perception is that men are better leaders who can make tough decisions and act consistently. Women are perceived by respondents as being more emotionally intelligent and better at dealing with ‘feelings’. Arguably, this conforms to stereotypes but the impact and substance of this ‘gender perception’ on collaboration can be investigated as part of our ongoing study,” commented Dr Mackie.
Risk of failed collaboration
Lack of communication (35%) and lack of leadership (32%) are the two most commonly cited reasons for teamwork breaking down.
Respondents also believe that the impact of failed collaboration is greater on their organisation than on themselves as individuals. The biggest risks of failed collaboration are believed to be ‘effect on company reputation’ (18%) and ‘effect on company morale’ (18%).
‘Honesty’ is perceived to be the most important part of building trust with 90% highlighting its importance.
As part of the project, CEDR has also interviewed a number of senior business executives and academics regarding their own experiences of collaboration, and their reaction to the findings of the study. The full list of video interviews conducted around the subject is available on the CEDR website www.cedr.com/foundation/collaboration.
“Nobody has an organisation of people whom they completely trust in all circumstances. So you’ve got to decide what you want to trust people about - be it their analytical ability, their ability to tell you if things are going wrong, or their ability to work together for the good of the project.” Sir Peter Middleton, chairman of Marsh UK and ex-chairman of Camelot Group, Barclays Bank and CEDR
“Today, the winning organisations will have a strong collaborative ethos. The key model is not for the leader to be superior - but rather to be akin to a theatre director, whose job is to take a bunch of people and turn them into an ensemble, where status differences are eliminated in the pursuit of a common performance.” Professor Nigel Nicholson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School
“Can you collaborate without trust? Yes, you can. There can be certain elements of trust which can be used to get a collaborative engagement going; for example if you break down a relationship into its constituent parts there may be a number of those parts where there is already quite a lot of trust. Latching onto the trust that already exists is a great way of starting to get collaboration going.” Geoff Lloyd, Ernst and Young, Executive Director, Tax Controversy & Risk Management
CEDR is a not-for-profit body, founded in 1990, that campaigns for better resolution of disputes and management of conflicts. CEDR’s foundation activity promotes awareness of the need for more effective dialogue and how to achieve it. CEDR’s commercial arm comprises:
CEDR Dispute Resolution Services: Europe’s largest independent alternative dispute resolution service, which to date has helped over 100,000 parties in commercial and consumer disputes,
CEDR Skills Services: The leading negotiation and conflict management trainer internationally acclaimed for its Mediator Skills Training of over 7000 mediators. It also consults globally on Civil Justice reform and helps business develop conflict management systems.
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