Workplace Communication & Trust: The Equivalent to the Chicken & Egg Conundrum

I may owe a former client an apology. But, then again, maybe not.

I’ll let you decide.

Five years ago at the end of seminar I delivered on The Small Business Championship Game Plan an attendee, Garry, came up to me to ask me a few questions about a situation in his company.

We had a brief exchange during the 90-minute seminar and I had a general idea of the challenges he was facing but not the full extent.

After listening for a minute or two I told him, “it sounds as if you have a communication problem.”

In this case study interview video he admits that he didn’t believe me at the time.

But, he hired me anyway.

We worked together over an 18-month period after which his work environment, and relationships with his employees, were transformed.

At the end Garry admitted I was right, that his workplace issues were caused by poor communication.

Lately, though, through other similar client work I’ve come to believe I may have been wrong in diagnosing Garry’s underlying problem.

If we look at how things transformed and what the real difference was that made the difference after our work together, the real issue was “trust,” between Garry and key members of his staff.

I find that time and again.

So, I’m beginning to think that I was technically wrong in my original assessment.

But, not really. Because it was the poor communication that led to the low trust.

But, the argument could also be made that low trust caused the communication between Garry and his employees to be such that less than optimal.Trust & Communication is the Chicken & Egg of Championship Performance Cultures in Small Business

If there is a low trust between two individuals it will impact the communication between them.

People will surely communicate differently in low-trust vs. high-trust environments.

My question to you is, what comes first low-trust or ineffective communication?

Does the low-trust cause ineffective communication, or does ineffective communication cause low-trust?

Leave a comment below and let’s explore this together.

‘til next time, remember, Communicate With Power!

skip-weisman-professional speaker-small business championship coach








9 thoughts on “Workplace Communication & Trust: The Equivalent to the Chicken & Egg Conundrum

  1. Tom Lemmey says:

    Skip, It has to be communication. Without communicating, how can 2 adults (or more) build even a basic level of trust in today’s world? Employees have been taught, by the actions of both current and past employers, not to trust without some consistent level of communication and commitment from their supervisors. Trust is earned, and easily lost.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think it depends on the management levels in the company whether or not poor communication leads to low trust, or the other way around. In my company, I find that among my peers, poor communication is much more the problem than low trust. There is high trust, but often times poor communication. This is actually much easier to fix because people don’t think you are hiding information – they think that you just forgot to tell them, or the way you communicated the issue wasn’t clear. It is a feedback loop that can be improved relatively easily.

    However, the higher up the ladder you go, I think the 2 start to go completely hand-in hand, become entangled and then it is really hard to fix. You know there is a problem when the CEO is in your office asking you things your boss should be telling him about. However, is the problem that that my boss is not communicating well or paying attention to the things the CEO cares about, or is it that he doesn’t trust what my boss and others at that level tell him? Either way – a very difficult situation to fix…..

  3. Robb Senkfor says:

    I would say trust trumps all. Ineffective communications will not dent a high trust team. But no type of communication will truly be effective in a low trust team.

  4. Maria says:

    While both statements are true, I believe that communication comes first. Trust takes time to earn – although easily lost. Until then, you are building (or not) your relationship based on the communications you have with that person/team.

  5. Clara Dodd says:


    I compare this with dating. When you first agree to go on a date there has to be an initial level of trust. How you communicate on that first date will quickly reveal whether or not that trust was justified.
    With each encounter or conversation you develop an increasing or decreasing level of trust. If you find the communication poor regardless of trust, you might choose to end the relationship or at least back away from it. If each communication reinforces the decision to trust someone, then trust increases and consequentially communication improves.

    Some would argue that some communication would have to occur to have an initial level but I think it is really trust or lack of it which exists first.

    If you look at the hiring process, the new boss or new employee situation, new team development, and the customer sales person relationship, this dance occurs in all of them.

  6. Laura Ross says:

    Poor communication leads to lack of trust. I always recall something I learned at IBM management school. Once you become a manager what you say, how you behave and what you do become the topic of dinner conversation.

    Communication builds trust over time. It must be continually nutured. One or two bad exchanges can quickly erode months of positive communications.

    My 2 cents worth.

  7. Debbi Toh says:

    I think that trust comes first.. It is difficult to really communicate in an environment where there is no trust. Will what you said be heard or could it be held against you.? Is it better to say nothing than risk blow back? We have a working environment that is very different depending on who is your direct c-team supervisor. For one of us, employees are frightened to say anything as they do not trust their c-team supervisor to listen and to treat them with respect. The other side is a c-team member that values employees and works very hard to build trust. It has become a problem of the “haves” and “have nots” depending on who their c-team supervisor is. It truly has become the difference between night and day and has contributed to a number of issues related to both trust and communication. If our employees cannot trust us to listen objectively, then we will never know what truly needs to be changed. Communication without trust is essentially worthless.

  8. Veronica Weider says:

    I believe that trust is earned between people. Communication in all ways, always contributes to the building of trust.

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