broken arrows

Broken arrows in the workplace

When the USA has an accident with a nuclear weapon, they call it a broken arrow. Broken arrows often mean something dire has happened, and there have been numerous examples of crashed B-52 bombers, missiles being damaged in their silos and other disasters that would make your hair stand on end.

In the workplace, we have something very similar to a broken arrow, which is when we lose trust in our team, customers, or leaders. Dealing with a broken arrow in the workplace can be a massive issue as we work and interact.

Rebuilding broken arrows can be very daunting. We may choose to opt-out by leaving the organisation, the team, or the chain of command. There is a way back to rebuilding trust. Rebuilding trust takes time, and both parties must be prepared to work out how to move forward.

A valuable way to look at this can be the trust equation, which, put quite simply, looks like this:

Trust = credibility + reliability + intimacy / divided by self-orientation.

If trust is broken down, one of these factors is inevitably at play. Is it that someone has lost their credibility by lying or deceiving? A leader has lost their reliability by not turning up and doing what they said they would, or maybe the intimacy of a working relationship has gone. Someone has chosen to break away and not share what they’re doing. The most significant factor is self-orientation as if we are only looking at ourselves, i.e. when someone is just interested in their own needs, that can often mean they overlook the needs of others.

If people think we are more interested in our own goals than in their goals, they are less likely to trust us and, as a result, expect us to seek personal gain at their expense.

Broken arrows can be fixed, but they take time and effort, along with an evaluation of what’s happening. 

This starts with a conversation. Do you need to have one?