Rebuilding Trust Strengthens Your Integrity

BY Tim Londergan
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Occasionally, we learn that work relationships are fragile. It's possible our words or actions are misinterpreted. Or, we may have been out-​and-​out disrespectful. If we’re timely, we can retrace our steps, recognize the transgression and find a way to set things right. Making the effort does two important things:

  1. Preserves the stability of the workplace
  2. Allows us the opportunity to reestablish our credibility

However, if we’ve waited too long, or our efforts at rebuilding trust are insincere, the damage is done. Importantly, we must strive to maintain trust on this intimate level. However, one study shows that trust, overall, is in decline.

You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.” – Anton Checkov

Rebuilding trust is needed on a large scale

Americans’ distrust of major institutions has been brewing for some time. Citing a study released in 2019, Pew Research found that 75% of Americans agree that trust in federal government has been shrinking. More troubling, 64% felt that trust in each other has declined. Continuing, the study showed that nearly half (49%) linked the decline in interpersonal trust to a belief that people are not as reliable as they used to be. Despite the widespread distrust, 84% believed it possible to improve the level of confidence people have in the government. Interestingly, 86% believed it begins with Americans’ level of confidence in each other. Subsequently, rebuilding trust begins on a personal level.

Learning to trust is one of life’s most difficult tasks.” – Isaac Watts

Trust is local

From a survey of the general population, Edelman, a global communications firm, released the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer. From specialized analysis of the data sprang a special report entitled Trust in the Workplace. “Amid one of the greatest workplace disruptions, set against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, political instability and eroding institutional trust, ‘My Employer’ has emerged as an anchor of trust and stability.” Unexpectedly, 78% of employees trust their employer. Further, 79% say they trust their coworkers ahead of their superiors, and 69% feel their coworkers comprise a source of community in their lives. A few highlights:

  • Workers are confident that coworkers will trust their opinion
  • It is easier to debate with coworkers than their neighbors
  • The workplace feels less politicized
  • The workplace is our island of stability (after friends and family)

Authors of the study leave us with two optimistic views:

  1. Employer trust is an indicator of societal trust overall”
  2. As employer trust increases, so does trust in institutions”

How to rebuild trust

With the understanding that trust is essential and, indeed perishable, we need to realize trust is also ambiguous. Author and psychologist, Dr. Paul White speaks and writes about work relationships. White addresses rebuilding trust in a recent article.

First, clarify how trust has been broken. Typically, he states, there is a lack of competence, character or consistency. Next, he suggests defining the type and nature of your workplace relationship.

Once the discretion has been identified, it’s important to confess, apologize or point out in clear terms the offense. Avoid talking to someone else about the incident. Ideally, the issue can be handled directly with the other party or, if necessary, involve a supervisor. All concerns should be expressed with specific examples.

Finally, think about specific ways to make amends. Plan to devise ways to demonstrate trustworthiness in the future. Together, the parties can reset and rebuild the trusting relationship.

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash