Picture this: It’s 9 am and you’ve just sat down at your desk in your home office in London. You open your inbox, expecting an email from a colleague in Japan, with information you requested before logging off the day before. But there’s no reply.
You were hoping to take advantage of the eight-hour time difference to get answers while you were sleeping, and now you’re annoyed. Do you hold onto that feeling, growing increasingly resentful during the day, and drafting passive-aggressive emails to your Japanese co-worker? Or do you let it go, knowing there was likely a reason they didn’t reply, and that you should be patient?
The difference between those two responses is trust. Organizational psychologists and good managers know that a lack of trust between co-workers can quickly lead to a breakdown in teams, particularly those that work across geographies and cultures. Research has shown that the quicker you can establish trust, the more efficiently a team can work on a task, and the more resilient it is to the inevitable stresses caused by time zones, cultural differences, pressures, miscommunications, and conflict. Academics call a global team’s ability to do this at the beginning stage of a project “swift trust formation.”