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Here’s a hard business truth: No workplace is free of the ravages of distrust. Anyone who’s ever held a job knows the frustrations that emerge when co-workers don’t trust each other – the miscommunications, rivalries, inefficiencies, morale problems, and turnover that, in the end, distract people from their work and make life stressful. And ultimately, research shows, cost money.

Dr. Mark Scullard, a PhD psychologist who serves as senior director of product innovation for Wiley’s Workplace Learning Solutions division, has studied distrust in the workplace and found its source: individual insecurity. It’s not insecurity itself that’s the problem, though; it’s our drive to cover it up. In a new eBook, The Invisible Drain on Your Company’s Culture, Scullard traces the spread of dysfunctional behaviours at work to the secret self-doubts that beset each of us and outlines a solution.

Even the most enlightened of us, Scullard argues, has vulnerabilities, emotional needs, and irrational tendencies. Each of us has dark moments when we worry that we’re not progressing fast enough, we’re not equipped for our jobs, we’re not good enough. Insecurity is natural, human, and universal. And this inescapable human struggle, painful as it can be for individuals, is compounded in the workplace. Why? Because we hide it from each other. “Sure, I believe in this project,” we assure our colleagues. “Oh, yes, I appreciate Bob, too,” we say, when in fact he’s the competitor we fear most.

Toss a bunch of secretly insecure people together in an organisation, and, almost inevitably, you’ll get pretence, territorialism, blaming, gossip, stalling, and a host of familiar workplace misbehaviours that breed distrust. Over time, what Scullard terms the “corrosive effects of unmanaged insecurity” choke operations, and the result is performance problems allowed to fester, crucial product launches derailed, digital strategy mired in conflict, and quarterly results that miss the mark.

How does unmanaged insecurity show up every day at work? Without being aware of it, we all devote time to mediating our insecurities and those of our colleagues. We tell our boss we’re confident we can handle a tough challenge because we don’t want to expose our fears. When we’re scheduling a meeting, we consider who can’t be left out because they might feel slighted. We redo a colleague’s work rather than give them candid feedback. We add exclamation marks to our emails to make them seem friendlier. We take these tiny, semi-conscious actions to avoid acknowledging that we doubt ourselves and we sense others feel the same way.

Scullard is an expert not only on workplace insecurity but also on a respected set of solutions: the personality-based Everything DiSC assessments and learning tools. He led the research behind the assessments, along with their validation, and continues to guide the development of workplace learning experiences based on DiSC. And what he’s discovered is that assessments such as DiSC, accompanied by classroom training, allow people to recognise their own foibles, needs, and tendencies — and those of their colleagues. When people can be open about their insecurities, they’re able to accept them. And they’re able to see their colleagues as complex, idiosyncratic human beings with their own foibles, needs, and tendencies. The workplace becomes a no-fault, no-judgment zone, freeing co-workers to look beyond the differences that, unacknowledged, breed distrust. And when everyone’s flaws and needs are brought to the surface, insecurity is no longer a destructive force that stunts relationships, poisons culture, and undermines business performance.

The Invisible Drain on Your Company’s Culture outlines how Everything DiSC assessment and training fosters the understanding among colleagues necessary for good collaboration and ultimately good performance. The boss no longer seems like a jerk; instead, everyone knows he’s got a D style, which means he’s driven to succeed and afraid of losing control. Suddenly, he’s a vulnerable human being his colleagues can empathise with. And when he accepts his own insecurities, he can avoid giving in to his worst impulses. Where his inclination before might have been to yell, now he sees that that just scares people and makes them less likely to ask the challenging questions they need to ask to do good work.

In the 80-person office where Scullard has worked for 15 years, each person’s nameplate bears their DiSC style. “People go into meetings knowing their colleagues’ motivators and stressors,” he says. So, if Jane resists a new idea, her colleagues don’t dismiss her as close-minded. They know she has a CS style and needs time to consider new approaches. Emotional needs are accepted as human, distrust is nipped in the bud, and everyone can get down to business.

When we learn about our personality styles, we learn about the styles of others. This helps us change our interaction with others to be more cohesive in a team or group – in business and our personal lives.

DiSC personality testing is the tool that over 70% of Fortune 500 companies use daily making this a tried and trusted tool.

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Rebecca Wiles

Director & Facilitator of DiSC-OURSE and Director, Mentor & Lead Trainer of The Training Establishment

Rebecca has over 30-years experience in the Hospitality, Travel & Tourism industry, Rebecca is an expert in creating dynamic leaders, specialising Sales & Marketing. The DiSC psychometric testing tool has found its home at The Training Establishment since we’ve been using this in our training courses since 2016. Rebecca has a personal passion with DiSC and has created a way for participants to learn about their style in a fun, engaging and memorable way. Irene Parker, Lead Trainer, for DiSC-OURSE is equally as passionate about DiSC and is the perfect trainer to lead your team through DiSC. Her delightful and entertaining style makes every participant listen, learn and take action. Irene developes all trainers to have the same outcomes and ensures your training will have an outstanding ROI.