Trust – Broken in a Heartbeat

By Cindy Vallance

Trust is broken all too easily when expectations are violated.

There are a host of ways to damage trust. Once again, the most productive way to approach this topic is to reflect on what we can do. This is where we have control to make decisions and take actions.

So what behaviours damage trust?

Coercive or threatening behaviour will break trust and can be overt or more subtle. Blaming staff or co-workers for personal mistakes as well as making unfair or wrong accusations will also damage trust. Withholding promised support or breaking promises to others is another cause. Showing favouritism or discrimination will certainly damage trust as will lying, stealing others’ ideas, or wrongfully taking credit for others’ work. If we misuse private information or disclose others’ secrets they will hesitate to share with us again.

Eroding trust can be very easy – we can erode the trust others have in us simply by acting in a way that is overly controlling or by excluding others in an information loop. Engaging in harmful gossip with a “divide and conquer” approach will make the person on the receiving end wonder when their own actions will be the next topic on the gossiper’s lips – except this time sharing the ‘hot’ topic with someone else.

Have you ever engaged in any of these behaviors? Have I? Of course. But can I make a concentrated and conscious effort to avoid engaging in trust destroying actions? Yes but only if I make the decision to do so. The same is true for all of us.

And of course, the erosion or destruction of trust is much more complex than simply focusing on current behaviours.

Does the person whose trust we have broken have a predisposition to forgive? Has the breach been one time or is there a history of trust violation? What is the degree of the breach? Has damage been avoided or has it been incurred?

And what are the remedial measures? What is needed and what is possible? An explanation, an apology, a remedy?

My final blog on the topic of trust will look at ways to repair broken trust and manage distrust.

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