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15 Ways We Derail Trust at Work

Mindless behaviors that impact workplace trust.

Social media and a 24/7 news-frenzy fuel distrust no matter one's political leanings. From governmental leaks to behind closed door healthcare dismantling, we live in times of intrigue, spin, rumor, jockeying, and miscommunication; some deliberate, some not. And all of that being accelerated and highlighted via technology. No wonder trust in government nears historic lows.

While most of us don't work in such politically charged, made-for-reality-TV workplaces, we do encounter similar missteps, even mini-dramas, impacting trust levels in our own work groups of peers, staff, coworkers, and leaders.

While it's easy to point fingers or notice others' trust-derailing behaviors, it is difficult to create personal awareness about our own. In reality, we all contribute to the trust or distrust levels where we work, often through unintentional, mindless behaviors that diminish trust.

There are numerous ways we can spark distrust at work; below are a few. Whether you're someone's leader or coworker, consider how many of these behaviors are true, more often than not, for you.

15 Mindless Ways to Sabotage and Derail Trust in Your Work Group

  1. Focus on your "win" without thinking how it's achieved or its impact on others
  2. Ignore standards, values, policies, approaches teammates are expected to follow
  3. Operate with 20th-century thinking in a 21st-century world; stop learning at work
  4. Treat your small work issues, needs, or problems as five-alarm fires
  5. Practice "cordial hypocrisy" — i.e. "pretend trust when there is none."
  6. Be unresponsive to requests that aren't of personal interest or importance to you
  7. Share confidential information from or about others
  8. Give the perception of mutually beneficial relationships, but create only faux ones
  9. Lack follow through on what you say you'll do
  10. See people as interchangeable parts; be unaware of others needs, interests, talents
  11. Confuse friendship or loyalty with authentic trust
  12. Deflect or explain away input, feedback, or criticism that you don't like
  13. Infrequently take on more responsibility, assist others, or share your knowledge
  14. Speak up when you're against something; remain quiet about what you're for
  15. Play on a team of one more often than not

Most of us aren't deliberating working to derail our work group's trust level. Yet, like a chameleon, we react to our environment, sometimes changing how we show up or act. Pressures to fit in, be recognized, keep a job, or get promoted can cause us to render decisions out of character or adapt unself-like behaviors — our equivalent of changing color. These chameleon-esque transformations diminish, and at times even break, trust.

There are many way to create self-awareness, to build the skill of being mindfully aware of how you're showing up and what impact you have on those you work with. Start by regularly asking: Did my behaviors or actions contribute or diminish trust today?

More tips about how to create and operate with trust at work:

You'll find more tips and how-tos in my book Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture That Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation