How Cultures Spiral Out of Control


Distrust often starts innocuously enough. A bit of gossip. A smidge of dissent. But as the saying goes, “When it rains, it pours.” Before you know it, a snowball effect takes hold, and the whole organization can easily become engulfed in cynicism, antagonism, and territorial bickering. In this episode, Kari and Paul discuss how to intervene before our organizational cultures spiral into a cycle of distrust, and how to maintain more productive moods of curiosity, ambition, and collaboration instead. How do we intervene in this way? First, we must recognize that trust is built through conversation, and learn how to have those conversations more effectively in creating a positive spiral of trust throughout our organizations.

In This Episode:

1:13 – Distrust is bad for the bottom line.

3:09 – Where to start with addressing distrust: having conversations for trust

5:00 – What are clues that distrust is taking hold?

6:19 – How do we get our hands on culture? Culture as a network of conversations.

11:15 – Paul shares an example of gossip inducing a cycle of distrust in his company.

14:33 – Taking on local culture first.


“If people are knee deep in cynicism, defensiveness, secrecy, gossip, and inauthentic conversations—that is not good for your bottom line!” 

“Almost all of us agree that trust is a good thing…but we don’t know how to get our hands around trust.” 

“Trust is built, sustained, and maintained through conversations.” 

“Culture is nothing but a network of conversations.” 

“Cycles of distrust have a tendency to spiral. They can act like an infectious disease.” 

“That’s how human beings work when we are together—we talk. So let’s leverage that to shift out of a cycle of distrust. What conversations need to happen to shift the narrative towards more trust?”