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Restoring Trust


Restoring TrustWhat does it mean to me when I say that I trust someone?

Trust, to me, means that I can have confidence in a person to do what she says she will do. I can believe in her when she’s given me her word on something…and I can feel that she truly has my best interests at heart.

It means that a person won’t take advantage of me and she’ll be honest with me and because I know that; I am comfortable in being honest with her. It means that if she does make a mistake – she will take accountability for that mistake and not try to make excuses for what happened.

Merriam Webster’s dictionary provides this definition of trust:

1 a : assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something b : one in which confidence is placed
2 a : dependence on something future or contingent

I remember the days when a handshake was all that was required to do business with another person…now we draw up documents to ensure that all parties will deliver on their promises and sadly; many of these promises have been broken and the documents have been called upon to enforce delivery. Then, in come the lawyers and mounting legal bills! What has happened that things have gotten this way in business?

How did trust get destroyed in so many cases?
A survey done about trust in the workplace by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers  found that there has been a decline in trust in the workplace at 3 out of 4 workplaces over the past two years.
According to this survey, it takes an average of 7 months for the executives to build trust in a leader, but less than half that time (3 ½ months) for them to lose trust in one.  The level of trust was best between front-line employees and their immediate supervisors and the level of trust was worst between front-line employees and top-level executives.
I recently read some tips at the “Co-Worker Relationships and Communications” site   that are also helpful to building trust in personal relationships as well as in the workplace.
I particularly liked the comment that was made on this site that said, “Trust can’t be negotiated, tacked onto a paycheque (sic), stored in a locker or perched on a desk. But loss of trust in a workforce can increase stress, reduce effectiveness and cause turnover.”

Some of the tips they provided are as follows:
•    Listen in way that show you respect others and that you value their ideas, even if – and especially when – you don’t agree
•    Communicate openly and honestly without distorting information
•    Share feelings as well as hard facts
•    Keep your promises and commitments
•    Don’t jump to conclusions without checking the facts


There are a few that I would like to add of my own here:
•    Speak the truth at all times – in a respectful way
•    When changes must occur, talk to those most impacted to ensure they understand why and what they might expect
•    Always be responsible and accountable – if mistakes are made – own up to them
•    Don’t take part in gossip
•    Consider the impact of your decisions on others – that doesn’t mean don’t make decisions – just be aware of others in making them

Recognizing that trust is an area of concern for business (and obviously other relationships) means that there’s work to be done for most organizations.
And while I recognize that it’s unlikely we will ever be able to return to the days when a handshake will suffice in a business transaction; executives should think about getting the levels of trust back to that place.  Can you imagine how healthy our workplaces would be if trust were restored to that degree?
Dr. Stephen Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) has always been one of my favourite books when I think about building trust. Among other valuable pieces of information around principle based leadership, he refers to an emotional bank account and relates it to trust in relationships.
To restore trust, one must show personal integrity. The emotional bank account is based upon trust, so if you act with integrity (wholeness, completeness, and soundness of moral character) you will build trust in your relationships.
We also must be sincere in our apologies when we make a withdrawal on that emotional bank account. We all make mistakes but if you can’t own up to them and make a sincere apology, which will allow you to restore trust; then you can’t put the deposit bank into the account.
It’s such a great analogy; and I know that Dr. Covey’s book is definitely not new, but I think it may be more timely than ever and maybe we need to revisit some of the lessons he taught us with respect to trust.
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