Does anybody trust you at work?

Does anybody trust you at work?


It is a truism to say that it might take a lifetime to build trust and a single moment to wreck it but whether or not that is true it is clear that trust is a fragile thing.  It doesn’t take much for people, even those who begin by initially trusting everyone until they prove themselves untrustworthy, to lose trust. In the light of the recent Alberta Election where so many people showed their lack of trust in the P.C. Government it might be instructive to look at how easily trust can be lost – in politics and in the workplace.

Remember the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”?  Probably the quickest way to lose the trust of most people is to lie to them.  I suggest to managers “Don’t make promises you can’t keep!”  Promising a raise or a bonus if someone works especially hard could be a major motivator unless something pops up that stops you from keeping that promise (your boss, HR, the economy).   Un-kept promises in the past are highly unlikely to motive in the future.

How much trust can people put in your promises?  It is frequently the breaking of your word over small issues that starts the decay of relationships.  Do you say you will call someone but don’t follow through?  Do you promise to help with some task and then conveniently find something else to occupy your time?  Do you promise to get a task done by a certain date only to miss the deadline?

When you agree to do something you are implicitly (if not explicitly) giving your word that you will keep the commitment you have made.

The second behaviour that is probably one of the biggest reasons why people might not trust you is the reputation you have about talking about others negatively in their absence. If you tell me something negative about a co-worker, and slander their character, there is one thing I can be sure of – I will be the next topic of conversation when I am not around.  What you tell me about other people tells me far more about you than it does about them.  This mistrust is compounded if you tell me one thing that is positive to my face, but complain about my mistakes to everyone else.

Micromanaging is a huge demonstration of mistrust.  Many people who micromanage claim that they simply have high standards or simply “need to ensure that things are done correctly”.  The only time that you need to ensure this occurs when you don’t believe the person who is doing the task is willing or able to do it right – in other words, you don’t trust either their competence or their work ethic.

Being perceived as aloof or distant is frequently interpreted as arrogance (even when the cause might just be shyness or extreme introversion).  When we know people more we trust them more.  We look for commonalities, for things that we have in common so that a reasonable level of predictability exists.  When people are very different from us, we find it difficult to predict their behaviour and thus are unsure if we can trust them.  The paradox, however, is this:  when everybody thinks alike, nobody thinks very much.  However, having people who think differently means that trust is not automatic.

The last trust indicator that appears on my top 5 list is standing up for people when necessary.  Do your staff trust that you will have their back when necessary?  If they are being victimized by another person, group, client, department etc. do they know that you will support them when they are right but not throw them under a bus if they are wrong?  The only reason some of us are in the jobs we are in now is because a manager saw that behind our errors was someone who had skills that could be nurtured and developed.

If your staff and colleagues were to rank you on trust dimensions in terms of three critical trust elements, how do you think they would rank you on the truthfulness of your communication, the certainty that you would keep promises, and on your competence and ability to do what you said you are going to do – how do you think you would fare?

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