Enterprise Software

Seven reasons your coworkers don't trust you

You don't have to commit a major scandal for your coworkers to lose faith in you. Sometimes it's a bunch of little things that add up.

This blog was originally posted in October, 2011.

According to a recent Civility in America 2011 survey, two out of three employees report that their performance has declined due to workplace incivility.  They also cite a "critical need" for civility training.

Most employees think that a breach of trust must be severe or even scandalous to take a toll on their relationships with co-workers.  To those people, Dennis and Michelle Reina, leading experts on promoting workplace trust say, "Think again." Dennis and Michelle are co-founders of the Reina Trust Building Institute, a Stowe, Vermont-based consultancy, and co-authors of the award-winning business books Rebuilding Trust in the Workplace and Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace (Berrett-Koehler). They maintain that little breaches of trust over time are a big deal.  Like death by a thousand paper cuts, they kill productivity, performance, and morale.

The Reinas spell out seven reasons your co-workers might not trust you and show how to avoid the most common mistakes. The highlights are:

1. You withhold trust in others

Trust is a two-way street.  If you want people to trust you, you need to trust them.  For starters, avoid micromanaging.  Instead, give your co-workers the latitude to put their full talents to work.

2. You fail to acknowledge effort

When a co-worker goes above and beyond for you, how do you respond? Do you take a moment to personally recognize his effort? Or do you just say "Thanks" in a perfunctory email and move on to the next task?

3. You miss deadlines

Life happens and you miss a deadline here and there.  No big deal, right? Wrong.  Every time you don't deliver, you betray trust because your co-workers were depending on you.

4. You arrive late for meetings

When you consistently arrive late, your co-workers feel that you're wasting their time.  They also feel that you'd only be willing to do that if you think your time matters more than theirs.

5. You don't admit your mistakes

By admitting your own mistakes, you not only acknowledge your humanity but also allow your co-workers to acknowledge theirs.  As a result, communication opens up, mutual trust is built, and people feel free to take smart, creative risks.

6. You spin the truth

Do your co-workers know that they count on you to tell the truth or do they just assume you'll tweak it? Tell it like it is.  Spin never passes the sniff test anyway; people see it for what it is and, sooner or later, lose trust.

7. You behave badly

Be aware of your behavior.  Instead of berating a co-worker for missing a deadline, for instance, calmly ask how and why things got off track.  Understand what that person needs from you in the future.


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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