Broken Trust and What to Do About It

Tags: Leadership Worth Sharing Blog, Organizational Culture, Organizational Leadership, Situational Leadership

Trust is a highly personal thing. And for many reasons beyond the scope of this blog, trust is crumbling in our society both personally and professionally. In fact, the unsettling reality is that broken trust has now reached epidemic proportions.

Broken trust can come from a variety of unintentional places such as saying one thing and doing another, breaking promises or leaving people out of the loop. Or it can come from more serious, intentional offenses such as workplace sabotage, betrayal of confidences or throwing others ‘under the bus.’ Either way, the effects of broken trust can dramatically damage any relationship or project.

And accept the fact that you will, in your life, either be the victim of ‘broken trust’ or break someone’s trust in you. Swallow that bitter pill now because it’s going to happen. You can’t avoid it even if you tried.

I know this from my own personal experience. Anyone that knows me knows that I’m passionate about driving resolution . . . to the point that I’m always on the hunt for trouble and problem areas! If I do say so myself, this is a fabulous skill to possess until I sometimes overstep my boundaries. I can lose sight of other people’s ‘cheese’ and, upon occasion, I have come across arrogant, cocky and insensitive. Not the best qualities for an Organizational Leadership expert . . . or for building trust in an occupation that depends on it.

In this blog, I want to share with you my own personal approach to rebuilding trust which is quickly proving to be one of the most important skills you can possess in today’s skeptical society. Hopefully, they can work for you as well.

Rebuilding Trust . . . An Essential Skill for Your Personal and Professional Life

So, yes, I have found myself inadvertently breaking down trust instead of building it. And in this process I have painfully learned that trust is very difficult to create AND sustain, period.

In my heart, I can confidently tell you that trust all funnels down to . . . let your ‘yes be yes’ and your ‘no be no.’ But being human, it’s not that easy for us to do!   So let’s move on to what we can do about repairing trust.

Repairing a Personal Relationship Where You Broke the Trust

However the broken trust happened, it’s essential that you step up and take ownership by . . .

I’m not saying being right and being happy are polar opposites. I’m saying that when it comes to broken trust, people experience ‘hurt’ feelings. And we, as human beings, naturally ‘close up’ as a protection mechanism. The only way to open up a ‘closed person’ is to show ‘open-ness’ yourself. Trust boils down to . . . True, sincere effort and a willingness to show support and vulnerability. To this end, the question of right or wrong is secondary to honest, genuine communication.

Again, hard to do if you believe you did nothing to warrant the mistrust. But please don’t lose sight of the point here: Trust is about having true, genuine, sincere relationships where there is a real sense of support and camaraderie. We’re not talking ‘business’ here as much as about ‘relationships.’

You might be thinking at this points, ‘man, this repairing trust stuff, is hard and sucks!’ Believe me, it does! I’ve been there one too many times! Re-gaining trust is ten-fold harder than keeping it! But keep your eyes on the ‘prize’ and hang in there. It’s priceless when people trust you and so extremely detrimental when people do not!

Repairing a Personal Relationship Where Someone Else Broke Your Trust

This is also an area where you need to take some ownership! People aren’t mind readers. You need to be able to express why your trust is broken and what you need to regain it. Keep in mind, the person may not even realize they did anything to break your trust. Speaking up and communicating is probably one of the hardest things you’ll ever do because of the sheer emotions involved. But you MUST do it if you value the relationship. And if you can’t be objective, get someone to help you communicate.

Also, keep in mind the following . . .

I get that giving the benefit of the doubt to someone who has ‘burned you’ sometimes feels like allowing them the opportunity to burn you again. I also get that there are downright cold hearted and brutal acts that lead to broken trust. But what I’m talking about here, is someone who realizes his/her ‘wrong’ and approaches you to apologize. You already know how hard it is to overcome their own ego to approach you. And what you do with their ‘apology’ will determine if they ever try again. Grant them some grace. It’s a risk worth taking.

Don’t be nebulous. Sometimes, people have no idea what they did to break your trust. They just noticed that ‘something has changed’ between you and them. Often times, broken trust simply boils down to mis-aligned focus, priorities and communication among people. 

Final Thoughts on Repairing Trust

For Personal Relationships 

Wounds received from broken trust take time to heal and you may not be ready to grant the grace I mentioned. That’s OK, really. Long term, however, any relationship where there is broken trust is not sustainable. Along with the inner turmoil, the decrease in communication, support and even production takes a toll on everyone. Take time to reflect, weigh the pros and the cons of your relationship with that person or situation and eventually work up the courage to take steps in reparation of trust. Or move on and shed those hurt feelings for good.

For Organizations

I didn’t spend a lot of time talking about trust from the company perspective but I will tell you the core principles are exactly the same. What goes into repairing trust within individuals holds true for repairing trust within companies, as well.   Company’s actions, communication and level of support for their employees will determine whether or not their employees trust the leaders.

Have the courage and discipline to find out the ‘trust factor’ of employees on your organization and do whatever you need to do to get it back if you, as a company, have lost it. And do whatever you need to do as a company to maintain it if you are already there. It’s the difference between whether or not you have a workforce of loyal contributors who are looking out for the good of the company, recommending your organization to their friends, hanging out even after work, or just simply collecting a paycheck. 

SAOL™ Transformational Leadership

Each blog comes from SAOL, The Rubi Ho Group’s exclusive leadership methodology known as Strategic, Agile Organizational Leadership. Its’ proven framework offers a common-sense approach to driving synergy, alignment and performance within leaders, teams and organizations. 

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Warmest Regards,

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