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Seven Trust-Diminishing Habits to Avoid at Work

Discover your own trust-building perils.

When it comes to building or diminishing trust at work one thing is clear, there is no little stuff. Everything matters. That includes routine actions, casual habits, and how, what and to whom you communicate. Too often, the speed of work causes us to quickly craft a message or reply without awareness of its trust-diminishing or enhancing dynamics.

But, you can improve your trust-building odds by eliminating common trust-diminishing habits. Most of us get the big things rightwe don't intentionally lie, manipulate, or deceive others at work. But unintentionally, we impact trust levels through simple actions we may not even know we're doing. How many of these apply to you?

Seven trust-diminishing habits to avoid:

  1. You black hole it or forget about it. Sure you're busy and it's annoying to get another email from HR or Accounting, or that coworker you don't know from a department you never worked with wanting information from you. But ignoring messages or leaving them languishing in black hole status leaves others waiting and wondering. That diminishes trust. Answer the messages from people you work with.

  2. You automatically grow the cc list on emails

    . You're a fan of "reply all" and adding to the email chain, thinking it's best if more people are "in the loop" about what's happening. You cc your boss, his boss, her boss, and anyone you think might be remotely affected by an issue. What may seem like communication to you can appear as an attempt to cover your you-know-what. That heightens distrust so use that tactic sparingly.
  3. You don't take your own words seriously. Casual speak is a plague that diminishes trust. Words, written or spoken, provide the backdrop for measuring actions. If you tell a colleague she'll have the information by Friday, but you mean "around Friday," when she gets it Monday, there's a disconnect for her between what you said and what you did which diminishes trust. Eliminate your casual speak if you want to build trust.
  4. You write things you wouldn't say. Electronic communication is your go-to for difficult messages, words of critique or disappointment, escalation of conflict, and bad news. But what you say and how you say it via text, twitter, Facebook, blog, or email is contrary to the way you'd communicate it if the person was in front of you, looking you in your eye, or talking with you directly. Before you press send, ask yourself: Is this the way I'd say it to his face? Don't let the communication vehicle change who you are or the message sent and received.
  5. You fail to pick up the phone when conflict or confusion mounts. Do you continue to send electronic messages when back-and-forth differences increase? Think again. Schedule a conference call to sort through issues, pick up the phone, walk down the hall and see the person. Anger, frustration, misdirection, tension, stress, and mistrust are common outcomes when conflict and confusion mount. This is the time to stop electronic messages. Diffuse the situation and clarify points of view with a voice-to-voice live dialogue.
  6. Your systems create road blocks, time consuming hurdles and/or unnecessary bureaucracy. Habits that diminish trust come in many forms. Systems, processes, procedures, and policies may seem innocuous, but often hidden within them are unintended messages of distrust. Take a fresh look from the users' perspective to determine what you might be communicating with your approaches. Remember that the opposite of trust is control.
  7. You make assumptions about other's intentions. Taking action or making decisions based on assumptions about what you think someone thinks, feels, or intends is fraught with peril and quicksand for distrusting behaviors. The intentions you want to understand are your own. The question to ask yourself is this: Why am I doing this, anyway? If your intentions are self-serving, manipulative, or ill-intentioned the results associated with trust-building will be as well.

If you want to build trust at work and increase the dividends it brings, including engagement, innovation, and great work, check your habits. Then create a new habit of mindful self-awareness. When you start to watch yourself and see your own actions through trust-building lenses, it's easy to eliminate actions that diminish trust and create new habits that build it.

More about how to operate with and build trust at work:

You'll find more trust building approaches in Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture That Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation (Career Press, 2014).

About the Author
Nan S Russell

Nan S. Russell is a former corporate executive and the author of four books, including, Trust, Inc. and The Titleless Leader.

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