On Trust

All’s right with the world.

Robert Browning

These past few weeks have been rough. My team has split in two to try to prevent work stopping in case one of us gets sick. Because the probability is increasing, with restrictions lowered and people letting their guard down, that it may happen. Time is our enemy just as surely as is the microscopic encased strand of RNA that has brought the world to a halt. It’s a numbers game now. Working alternate lab days has dimmed our morale in a time where we already struggle to keep things on an even keel. The catchup calls at day’s end to pass off the baton to the other team have been a poor substitute for the usual synergetic camaraderie we share in person. I feel like I’ve been working with one arm missing, and progress has slowed. But it was what we felt was most prudent, both for us all personally and to protect our efforts. The show must go on even if some of us needed to take intermission, and we were ready to do what was needed to see some if not all of us to the final curtain call.

Or so I thought. Imagine my surprise and chagrin when I found out last Friday that two members of the group, on opposite teams, were spending time together outside of work. All of our precautions, tossed to the wind. Our hardship all for naught. To make matters worse, these were teammates who should know better. This was our area of expertise! I was angry at the lack of consideration. Trust…well, that was a bit trickier. It had been broken, in this one area. Which begged the question, what else?

To add to all this, another person on our team whom I had placed an enormous amount of faith into, indeed my entire immediate future career aspirations, was acting somewhat erratic. I knew the pressure he was under. I’d seen him breaking somewhat at the seams the past few weeks, which took me slightly aback. But we are all human, we all falter, we all tire, we all need to rest. I had already taken measures to alleviate what burdens I could, for breathing room, and was hopeful that might help. That’s what a team does—carries the ball, executes, then passes it to the other. And so forth, with the unifying goal to win the game. It was my turn to carry a bit more. I had readied for this. But now, it seemed that more than a time out was needed, not just a breather. The disconcerting thought—was he out of the game? If so, could we carry on, not just in his absence, but even more troubling: what if he gave our strategy to the other team? I texted my close colleague—get ready, it looks like it may be just you and me, kid. We could do it. We had no choice. Since our precautions were disobeyed, we proposed to the team to coalesce to one group again. Together, we were stronger. A feeling of relief and “rightness” flowed into the air as we all agreed to the risk. We placed faith in each other again. And with that, trust was renewed.

This evening, we had another call. My closest colleague, myself, and the man in whom both of us placed our immediate career success. The one who was a bit erratic and on edge. The one we weren’t sure was with us so my colleague and I had made plans to go it alone, if need be. With just a few words, it became clear that he was back. And just like that, our faith, restored. Our trust, intact. None of us are replaceable, but he’s the heart of the team. And though my colleague and I could carry on, we would be going through the motions. For the reality is, life without a heart is hollow.