5 Guidelines to Identify Those You Shouldn't Trust at Work

Trust him? Distrust her? How to know?

Posted Sep 28, 2017

Source: Pexels

One of my colleagues recently commented, "Nobody wants to hear about trust anymore." She's right. In some organizations, the word trust seems as "out" as "politics." Relegated to being the elephant in the proverbial workroom, trust is being replaced by a more acceptable concept: Distrust.

It seems everyone is happy to talk about distrust—distrust of the media, of government, of those "others" in many us-versus-them differences.

Stories of distrust fill the nightly news, clog Facebook feeds, and line the Twitterverse. Unfortunately, the atmosphere in and out of work is trending toward distrust.

Author Charles Feltman defines distrust this way: "Distrust is a choice not to make yourself vulnerable to another's actions." Or, to believe "what is important to me is not safe with this person in this situation."

When we distrust at work, we're more protection oriented than relationship oriented. How do I protect myself becomes more important than how to I collaborate, cooperative, and build good working relationships? That shift impacts everything from engagement and productivity to communications and results.

But, just like we don't want a blanket approach to trust at work, we don't want a blanket approach toward distrust either, even in an era of distrust.  

A person's role or status doesn't determine their trustworthiness. A top executive isn't inherently more or less worthy of trust or distrust than someone in an entry-level position. All leaders, salespeople, construction workers, business owners, doctors, police officers, protesters, students, politicians, neighbors, or friends aren't the same (i.e., all trustworthy or all not). Trust is about individuals.

But, how can you quickly determine which individuals to trust? Should you trust her; distrust him? Here are 5 guidelines to help identify those you shouldn't trust at work:

  1. People who tell stories that are not theirs to tell
  2. People who say one thing and do another
  3. People who rail against issues, but never stand up for anything
  4. People who over-promise and under-deliver
  5. People who operate as a team of one

It doesn't matter if it's an era of distrust or not. The reality is authentic trust, the kind you need to create strong and mutually beneficial working relationships, has always been sophisticated, questioning, and open-eyed. To trust or not to trust requires judgment, and trusting isn't inherently a good thing. It's how, when, why, and to whom it's individually given that determines its positive or negative impact.

Tips about how to create, give, and operate with new workplace currency of trust:

•    Three Questions that Will Increase Your Trust Knowledge
•    What Kind of Integrity is Needed to Build Trust at Work?
•    Three Fundamental Rules of Trust

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