Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace
Building Effective Relationships in Your Organization
By Dennis Reina, Michelle Reina
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2015 Dennis Reina, PhD, and Michelle Reina, PhD
All rights reserved.
Trust Begins with You
Alex was head of a beverage manufacturing plant that was the lowest producer of thirteen plants nationwide.
By focusing entirely on bottom-line results, Alex had missed the biggest obstacle standing in the way of his organization reaching peak performance: a failure to build trusting relationships with his people. Although Alex cared a great deal about his employees, they didn't know it. He focused on the numbers and neglected to ask them what they needed to be successful in their jobs. They didn't think he cared about them, their issues, or their concerns. As a result, trust, morale, and production were at an all-time low.
Once Alex learned how to earn the trust of his employees and helped his employees learn how to build trusting relationships with one another, productivity soared. Within two years, the plant went from being the lowest to highest producer out of all thirteen plants. Alex and his team went on to win his organization's most coveted award, the Manufacturing Excellence of the Year Award.
We're all challenged in our efforts to connect with our colleagues, bosses, and employees—especially when we feel that we can't trust them or they don't trust us. You hold this book in your hands because your gut is telling you that in order to bring your work, relationships, and organization to the next level, you need to learn how to give trust, get it, and be equipped to repair it when it's been broken. You want trust. You need trust. You deserve trust.
The good news is, trust begins with you: with your attitudes, your intentions, and your behaviors within your relationships. This is good news because you're in control of these things, and this book will allow you to start working on them right away. You will gain a proven, practical, and comprehensive framework for understanding the behaviors you can practice to build and sustain trust. We're going to help you pinpoint the actions that test trust, and we're going to reveal the steps you can take to rebuild trust when it's been damaged or broken.
You don't need to wait on your boss, colleagues, or employees to lead the charge in building trust. You can take steps and reap the rewards of trustworthy relationships right now. Building trust (or repairing broken trust) takes energy, dedication, and self-awareness. But when you give your best efforts and diligence to the process, you'll benefit from increased energy, commitment, and confidence in your workplace relationships. We guarantee it.
The Need for Trust
When trust is present, there's a palpable buzz, a "can do" approach, and a belief that anything is possible. When people have confidence in one another's abilities, intentions, and commitment, they're more willing and able to participate, collaborate, and innovate. They are inspired. Trust may be intangible, yet the effects of its presence are concrete—both in people's lives and in the bottom-line results of an organization.
These results are crucial to surviving and thriving in a competitive, globalized marketplace. Every day, people are asked to work smarter, faster, and better. They're asked to do more with less, create new opportunities from epic failures, and engage in the steepest technological learning curve in the history of mankind. Trust plays a pivotal role in peoples' abilities to meet these expectations. In order to operate at their highest levels, people must trust one another and themselves.
You may not be used to thinking about trust as a primary driver of organizational culture and business success. But when you consider the everyday metrics that you use, you realize those "hard" numbers are all driven by the business conducted through human relationships. Business is built through relationships, and trust is the foundation of effective relationships. Trust is an aspect of the workplace that high performance cannot live without. When people trust one another, they open their hearts and minds to one another, forge productive partnerships, and collectively lower their shoulders to move mountains. Without trust, they withdraw, hoard their mental and physical resources, and search for the first available escape route.
Trust may be referred to as a "soft skill" by some, but we caution you not to underestimate its power—both when it's present and when it's absent. Building a trust-filled workplace is as vital to an organization's survival as piping in clean water. To stock a workplace with top-tier talent, attract powerful investments, and keep pace with an ever-changing business climate, we all must rely on thriving, trust-filled relationships. Without them, organizational spirits dehydrate and wither in the intense heat of a globalized marketplace.
Trust Is Tested
Trust is at play in every relationship we have—both at work and at home. In all relationships trust is built, broken, and made vulnerable. We've all been hurt, disappointed, and let down by others. And others have been let down and disappointed by us. Our trust is tested by the people we love, live with, and work with. And sometimes, our trust is tested by the very process of life itself.
While writing this third edition, we celebrated twenty-one years of marriage, milestones in our children's lives, and twenty-three years of business together.
Through those years, life has thrown us our fair share of curve balls and has tested our trust. Between the two of us, we've had three bouts of cancer: Dennis twice, Michelle once. We have lost both our fathers to cancer. And we have placed our faith in God that he would keep our youngest son, Will, safe while he served our country in Afghanistan.
We made sacrifices to support each other as we pursued our doctorates while raising two boys and starting our business. Our business has had periods of breakthrough growth and breakdown setbacks. We have experienced financial abundance and long periods of hardship. We have hired people who have come through for us while others took advantage of our good graces and betrayed us. We've had people tell us our work has changed their lives for the better, and we've had the wind knocked out of us when others have deceived us and taken credit for our research and work.
Our energies have soared through the presence of trust and have been depleted when it was broken. There have been periods when we were confident we could achieve anything and periods when we wondered if we were on the right course. Working through the pain of all these challenges, we have grown the fullest. Like many of you, we've learned firsthand that relationships take work and that trust is a must for relationships to be vibrant and long lasting.
More often than not, others don't mean to break your trust, and you don't mean to break theirs. And yet, trust is tested and broken on a daily basis as people do business together against tight deadlines, high expectations, and fierce competition. You let others down. They let you down. You're asked to support others, and you ask them to support you through these painful periods.
Most people associate broken trust with big offenses—major acts such as lying, stealing, or manipulating others. Your inner voice may say, I don't do those things. And the likelihood is, you don't. Few people do. The hard truth is, trust is most often eroded by subtle, minor, unintentional acts that happen every day—not the big things.
Fred is late on his deliverable. Kelly delivers tough news and is shot down. Anna rolls her eyes. Henry gossips about Jane. Tony cancels the meeting for the third time. David won't talk about the "situation." There is the meeting after the meeting. This department points the finger at that department. Someone takes credit for someone else's work. You have to ask for the same deliverable or piece of information over and over again. Sound familiar?
We've found that 90 percent of behaviors that break trust in workplace relationships are small, subtle, and unintentional. You both experience them and contribute to them. You don't mean to behave in a way that breaks others' trust in you anymore than they do. You don't mean to disappoint them, hurt them, undermine their efforts, or overlook their contributions. But you do. We all do these things to one another. Trust is tested every day by the inherent messiness of business and human dynamics.
The problem is, these little, unintentional hurts and oversights build upon one another until you are forced to pay attention to them. When you reach this tipping point, you no longer just feel let down—you feel betrayed. You shift from questioning your trust to grabbing it back with both hands as quickly as possible. Feelings of betrayal resulting from the accumulation of small, daily breakdowns in trust are just as real—and just as damaging to relationships—as those caused by large, noticeable violations.
This is not easy news to hear. You may be bothered by the very word betrayal. It may represent a painful experience in your life you'd prefer to forget. Trust is highly complex, emotionally provocative, and it means different things to different people. It can take a long time to build and can be broken in an instant. You want trust in your workplace, on your team, and in your relationships. We will show you how to get it. In so doing, we will ask you to pause and consider your behavior and your approach to relationships. Trust begins with individual effort. It begins with you and your awareness of the fragility of trust in your relationships.
Three Dimensions of Trust: The Three Cs of Trust
The solution to the vulnerability of trust is consistent, deliberate, trust building action. Practicing trust building behaviors signals to others—and yourself—that you and they are trustworthy. There is no shortcut to trust: it's achieved and maintained through visible consistency and alignment between what you intend to do and what you actually do. We've identified the Three Dimensions of Trust that are foundational to your trust building efforts and pinpointed the behaviors that build each dimension. We call these dimensions The Three Cs of Trust: Trust of Character, Trust of Communication, and Trust of Capability.
The Three Cs of Trust provide you with a common language and shared understanding of what trust means, so you can discuss trust-related issues with others and take action on them. As you explore each dimension, you'll learn specific trust building behaviors that, when practiced consistently, expand the level of trust in your relationships. Your trust in yourself and others will be increased, and you'll benefit from others' expanding trust in you: trust begets trust. The Three Cs of Trust are the foundation for your trust building activities.
The first dimension of trust, Trust of Character, is the trust of mutually serving intentions and the starting point for all relationships. You build this dimension of trust when you manage expectations, establish boundaries, delegate appropriately, keep agreements, work the "win-win," and behave consistently. As you practice Trust of Character behaviors, you substantiate yourself as a generally trustworthy person who can be counted on—even in tough situations. Others learn that you do what you say you will do, that you establish healthy boundaries and expectations, and that you support them as they strive to learn, develop, and thrive in your organization. This is perhaps the most selfless form of trust, yet is rewarding to achieve. You know when you've arrived at a high level of Trust of Character when people in your organization start relating to you as a person they can rely on and depend upon.
Trust of Communication is built when you share information, tell the truth, admit mistakes, maintain confidentiality, give and take feedback, and speak with good purpose. As you build this dimension of trust, you become known as someone who speaks the truth and encourages others to do the same. Moreover, you become a trusted confidant as people realize you can be trusted to give and share key information—and know when it's ethical and appropriate to do either. As you learn to build Trust of Communication, you no longer engage in gossip or feed the rumor mill. You compassionately bring issues and concerns directly to the individual concerned. You work it out. You start to become the go-to "gut check" in your organization for people at all levels of responsibility.
The final dimension of trust, Trust of Capability, is most aligned with your unique competence. You build this dimension of trust when you acknowledge others' skills and abilities, express appreciation for work well done, involve others in making decisions, and encourage learning. At the highest level, Trust of Capability teaches others that they can trust you to know what you're doing, to ask for input when you don't, and to identify and develop the value that others could be adding to you and the organization. As you practice the behaviors that lead to high Trust of Capability, your confidence in your own innate talents grows, as well as your awareness of and comfort with your shortcomings. You become positioned as a resident expert, trusted subject matter coach, and a deeply competent professional.
The Three Cs of Trust are mutually reinforcing and reciprocal in nature. That is, as you begin practicing one set of behaviors, you notice that the other sets naturally develop. Additionally, you're rewarded as other people in your organization begin to pick up on and model how you manage expectations, communicate, and delegate. Trust begets trust.
What Happens When Trust Is Broken
How do you respond when your trust has been broken? When you feel betrayed? Do you shut down? Check out? Pull back? Seek retaliation? Do you withdraw your spirit and energy from your work? Do you simmer and seethe? Simply go through the motions?
How do you respond when you learn that you have let someone down—either intentionally or unintentionally—and they feel betrayed? Do you defend, rationalize, or justify your behavior? Do you excuse it? Do you secretly think the other person overreacted? Or do you assume responsibility, reflect on why you chose to behave the way you did, apologize, and make amends?
When The Three Cs of Trust aren't practiced consistently, trust becomes vulnerable. Because you're human—and subject to the everyday pressures of life—it's understandable that you slip up and fall back into old patterns. Hurts, disappointments, letdowns, and breaches of trust are natural parts of relationships, including those with whom you spend the majority of your time. Even in high-functioning work environments and in healthy life relationships, trust can be vulnerable.
You let others down, and they let you down, either intentionally or unintentionally. We all know what it feels like to need to be forgiven. When you accept that you're human and embrace the fact that hurts, disappointments, and letdowns come with the territory of relationships, you're on the road to connecting with others on a deeper level. The key to unlocking your colleagues' passion, ingenuity, and commitment is not to expect perfect behavior from one another, but to have the tools, approach, and language in place to expedite healing when breakdowns do occur.
When trust breaks down, people tend to pull back and withdraw. They begin to question, Is this the place for me? I thought I belonged here. Now I'm not so sure. I thought I had what it took. Maybe I was wrong. They begin to lose confidence in their own skills and abilities. Some may go through the motions. Some do only barely enough to get by. Some become the "walking wounded." Others become victims. We hear the same story again and again as we work with clients: My heart isn't in this place anymore or I just look out for myself or We've stopped thinking big and taking risks. People of these low-trust companies report "a real loss in energy, passion, and creativity." When trust in a workplace remains broken and unaddressed, no one wins. Not organizations. Not teams. Not individuals. And not you. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace by Dennis Reina, Michelle Reina. Copyright © 2015 Dennis Reina, PhD, and Michelle Reina, PhD. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc..
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