The Invisible Drain on Your Company’s Culture

Apr 04, 2019 | 5 min read

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 coworkers 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 behaviors 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 organization, and, almost inevitably, you’ll get pretense, territorialism, blaming, gossip, stalling, and a host of familiar workplace misbehaviors 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 recognize 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 coworkers 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 empathize 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.
Everything DiSC, with its award-winning Authorized Partner network, is a global leader in delivering personalized soft skills learning experiences that have an immediate and lasting impact on organizational culture and performance. To download the free eBook by Dr. Mark Scullard, click here.