15 Ways You Sabotage Trust at Work

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Managers and owners of businesses have a hard enough time promoting trust at work among employees.

Trust must be earned. We learned that in grade school. It cannot be mandated by some policy or bought with bonuses and perqs.

Google recently released a two-year study focused on what factors made some teams higher performers than others. The #1 attribute was something they called “Psychological safety”. Read their report and you will see this is a big word for TRUST.

Before you spend a lot of time trying to build and improve the trust factor at work, take a hard look at the ways you might be derailing trust.

As hard as trust may be to build, it is actually quite easy to destroy.

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According to Nan Russell in Psychology Today:

“While it’s easy to point fingers or notice others’ trust-derailing behaviors, it is difficult to create personal awareness about our own. In reality, we all contribute to the trust or distrust levels where we work, often through unintentional, mindless behaviors that diminish trust.”

There are at least 15 ways I found that do nothing but undermine an employee’s or team’s trust in their leader.

The List

15 Mindless Ways to Sabotage and Derail Trust in Your Work Group

#1 – Focus on your “win” without thinking about how it’s achieved or its impact on others. If you claim victory for an accomplishment without including the participants, you will break trust.

#2 – Ignore standards, values, policies, or procedures your team is expected to follow. That’s a double standard.

#3 – Operate with 20th-century thinking in a 21st-century world; you stop learning at work. My way or the highway is a great country song, but a poor mantra for leadership.

#4 – Treat your small work issues, needs, or problems as five-alarm fires. The problem is seldom the problem. As the leader, be able to remain calm as issues arise.

#5 – Practice “cordial hypocrisy” — i.e. “pretend trust when there is none.” You can’t fake trust. You have to give it to receive it. People know the difference.

team building via trust

The Next 5 Trust Killers

#6 – Be unresponsive to requests that aren’t of personal interest or importance to you. Just because a team member brings you an issue that is not on your priority list, it may be huge on theirs. Hear them out.

#7 – Share confidential information from or about others. Being transparent as a leader can be tricky. You should be open to share information that is important to the achievement of goals but be quiet about things shared in confidence.

#8 – Give the perception of mutually beneficial relationships, but create only faux ones. Some people are easily fooled about perceived “connections” with the boss. Don’t be the source of such perceptions.

#9 – Lack follow through on what you say you’ll do. There’s a wise old saying “let your yes be yes and your no be no.” In other words, stick to what you say. Trust needs a foundation to grow. Breaking promises will crumble any foundation of trust.

#10 – See people as interchangeable parts; be unaware of others needs, interests, talents

The Last 5 Things that Crush Trust

#11 – Confuse friendship or loyalty with authentic trust. We love having true friends. But don’t confuse friendship with the right levels of trust. Yes, we usually trust our closest friends. However, high performing work teams can grow trust without making friends.

#12 – Deflect or explain away input, feedback, or criticism that you don’t like. As the leader, you must respond to things coming your way. Deflecting or minimizing unfavorable feedback can erode trust because people will see you as false.

#13 – Infrequently take on more responsibility, assist others, or share your knowledge. Hiding in the office does not build trust. Rather, it blocks it. Be open to those around you. Share and mentor when you can; hopefully frequently.

#14 – Speak up when you’re against something yet remain quiet about that which you favor. Be the champion for the purpose or the cause. Your business and team exist for a reason. As owner/manager or leader, you must be the champion of that cause.

#15 – Play on a team of one more often than not. Selfish ambition will erode trust too. As soon as it becomes evident the whole mission is about YOU, the team will turn away.

Cautionary Tale

Autocratic managers and bosses can make things happen. But they have to do it more with a whip than a whim. Also, their employee retention rates are low. Morale suffers.

Good leaders instill a “want to” within their people so that each team member’s discretionary effort is high.

A great leader is valued while they are here, but revered when they are gone.

Team Trust Model

If you want to know more about building trust at work for your team, visit my Team Trust Model.