Rebuilding Trust in the Workplace: Seven Steps to Renew Confidence, Commitment, and Energy

Rebuilding Trust in the Workplace: Seven Steps to Renew Confidence, Commitment, and Energy


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Rebuilding Trust in the Workplace: Seven Steps to Renew Confidence, Commitment, and Energy by Dennis Reina Ph.D., Michelle Reina

If so, you may be experiencing the confidence-busting, commitment-breaking, energy-draining patterns consistent with broken trust. We've all been there, but few of us know how to rebuild that trust. Dennis and Michelle Reina have spent their careers researching and measuring workplace trust. In this sequel to their award-winning Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace, they offer everyone involved a proven process for healing: the person who was hurt, the person who hurt someone else, and the person who wants to help others. No matter your vantage point, this compassionate, practical book will help you reframe the experience, take responsibility, let go, and move on. The result? You'll feel more energized and once again give your organization your best thinking, highest intention, and greatest productivity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781605093727
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Publication date: 10/04/2010
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 629,444
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Dr. Dennis and Dr. Michelle Reina are cofounders of the Reina Trust Building Institute. Their clients include American Express, AstraZeneca, Nokia, MillerCoors, the US Army Corps of Engineers, Harvard, Yale, and Walt Disney World. Their book Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace won a 2007 Nautilus Book Award and a 2008 Axiom Business Book Award.
Dr. Dennis and Dr. Michelle Reina are cofounders of the Reina Trust Building Institute. Their clients include American Express, AstraZeneca, Nokia, MillerCoors, the US Army Corps of Engineers, Harvard, Yale, and Walt Disney World. Their book Trust and Betrayal in the Workplace won a 2007 Nautilus Book Award and a 2008 Axiom Business Book Award.

Read an Excerpt

Betrayal Is Universal

The vulnerability of trust is always present, even in high-trust relationships. Since business is transacted through relationships, it follows that you will experience times at work when trust is broken—sometimes obviously, and sometimes not so obviously. Each and every day, small but hurtful situations accumulate over time into confidence-busting, commitment-breaking, energy-draining patterns consistent with broken trust. People feel hurt, disappointed, let down, and frustrated. The feelings can be as strong as resentment, bitterness, antipathy, and even betrayal.

Every single one of us has been betrayed and has betrayed others.

Betrayal is not our word. It is the word used by the thousands of people we have worked with who have taught us about trust. Betrayal is often viewed as a dark, negative word that triggers painful memories. But when trust has been broken, people often feel betrayed. That is the simple truth. It is also true that every single one of us has been betrayed and has betrayed others. Betrayal is universal. People have been betrayed by bosses, subordinates, co-workers. There is betrayal in families, friendships, neighborhoods, social groups, religious institutions, schools, and universities. The ways trust is broken aren’t always immediate or obvious. Let’s start by learning more about the forms betrayal takes.

The Betrayal Continuum

Betrayal occurs on a continuum from unintentional to intentional and from minor to major. Intentional betrayal is a self-serving action committed with the purpose of hurting, damaging, or harming another person. Unintentional betrayal is the by-product of a self-serving or careless action that has the same result.

Major betrayals impact you immediately and dramatically at your deepest core. At work, major betrayal is often associated with mismanaged change related to reorganizations, shifts in strategy, mergers, acquisitions, and layoffs. On a more interpersonal level, a major betrayal may occur through a single act, such as violating a confidence or telling a lie. Major intentional betrayals are often the outcomes of fear and self-serving interests and include situations in which people:

Deliberately fail to honor their commitments

Knowingly withhold information

Deceive fellow co-workers

Sabotage others’ work to further their own ends

Major intentional betrayals are hurtful, ill-intended words or actions that break down trusting relationships. As one concerned employee told us, “It is especially painful when you are stabbed in the back without warning by those closest to you. It knocks you off your feet.”

Common Workplace Minor Betrayals

Gossiping or talking about others behind their backs

Consistently arriving late for meetings

Not responding to requests made by others

Hoarding pertinent, job-related information

Not returning phone calls or answering email requests

Finger pointing and blaming

Covering up mistakes

Discourteous, insensitive, or rude behavior

Taking credit for others’ work

Many unintentional minor betrayals have to do with abdicating responsibility. These are subtle situations in which someone tries to let him or herself off the hook by:

Telling a white lie

Not fully disclosing information

Condoning or not responding to someone else’s inappropriate behavior

Not owning his or her part of problem

Allowing his or her co-workers or reports to fail when he or she could have stepped in and helped.

While major betrayals decisively break trust, minor unintentional betrayals that erode trust over time are more pervasive. Take a look at the box for examples of such common behaviors. Our research shows that 90 percent of employees experience these types of betrayal frequently. But instead of dealing directly with these transgressions, people let them go unaddressed. Importantly, however, they do not go unnoticed. The net result of the accumulation of minor betrayals is major: people mentally and emotionally check out. They may wait it out until the economy improves to walk out the door. In the meantime, they become the “working wounded,” those who do as little as they can to get away with, no more, no less. Relationships fall apart and everyone loses.

How you position an experience along the betrayal continuum depends on the degree to which you perceive that the individual was self-serving or careless and the degree of hurt, damage, or pain actually inflicted. For instance, someone accepting credit for someone else’s work may be a minor intentional betrayal in one circumstance, but if the person who falsely accepts credit does so knowing that he will gain greatly at the other’s expense, it is a major intentional betrayal. We recently worked with a leader who lost a promotional opportunity because a co-worker took full credit for her work. This lost opportunity represented a major betrayal.

image Trust Tip In order to fully understand trust, we must understand betrayal. Betrayal is a natural part of human relationships. Critical to the health of human relationships is how effectively we deal with and work through betrayal when it happens.

The Impact of Betrayal

No matter its source, betrayal can rock you to your core and strike at the very center of your humanness. When you are vulnerable, your feelings are raw. You may feel sick to your stomach, have frequent headaches, or be more susceptible to illness. You may feel broken. You lose your footing, withdraw, pull back, disengage, and contract. In your contraction, you become hesitant and reluctant to trust others and yourself. You doubt yourself, question your own trustworthiness, and contemplate your sense of belonging. You wonder, who can I trust, who can’t I trust? Who can I believe, who can’t I believe? Your sense of self and identity flounders. You ask, what did I do to deserve this, who am I, and what do I have to offer?

In short, when you feel betrayed, you lose the confidence, commitment, and energy that keep relationships together, fuel your performance, and feed your satisfaction at work. Let’s take these one at a time:


“A co-worker is always speaking over me in discussions or when we make group presentations. I try to contribute but I struggle to make myself heard. I hold back my opinions because I feel like my co-workers place no value in what I have to say. I feel insecure and lack confidence in my opinions and my value to the company.”

When someone has betrayed you, you lose confidence in that person. If you feel betrayed by your company, you lose confidence in your leadership and sometimes in your colleagues. Over time, with repeated occurrences, you lose confidence in yourself. You begin to question and doubt your competence and your judgment of others. You then are no longer willing to take risks or put in extra effort.


“Everyone on our team is constantly forwarding their own interests and pushing hidden agendas. I guess it’s probably not the best way to work, but experience has taught me that this is the only way to get what I want. If I stop looking out for myself, someone around me will take advantage of it, and I won’t be able to obtain the resources I need to do my work. I’m sorry, but at this point, I have to focus on looking out for myself, because no one else will. I feel alienated, isolated, and forced to act in a manner against my core values.”

When someone betrays you, you question your commitment to that relationship. When that relationship is at work, the lack of commitment seeps into your commitment to your team, organization, and career. You simply don’t care anymore about the organization’s mission, your team’s goals, or maybe even about your customers or other constituents you serve. You’re ready to leave whenever you get a better offer. You may even be aware of losing connection and commitment to your own values; in other words, you begin to betray yourself as well.


“Every time I write something, my boss completely rewrites it. I don’t understand why he even has me write it in the first place. At this point, I don’t even make an effort when drafting up a document, because I know he’s going to change the entire thing anyway. It is the most annoying behavior I have ever experienced in the workplace, but there is nothing I can do about it because he’s my boss. I feel devalued and unable to make meaningful contribution. I’m just going through the motions and am so tired when I get home.”

Betrayal is energy-depleting and trust is energy-producing. Trust begets trust, and betrayal begets betrayal. When you feel betrayed, it’s natural to want to betray the other person back. Betrayal is energy-depleting because you spend what energy you do have plotting negative moves or retreating into a survival mode focused on self-preservation. You become distracted from your job and distanced from your colleagues. You lose sight of what used to motivate you, so work becomes a chore that wears you down.

Betrayals large and small heighten your awareness of trust-related issues and bring you an opportunity for self-discovery and renewal. Pursuing that opportunity is a choice you make consciously. You can choose to remain depleted, without confidence, commitment, or energy or you can choose to renew by being curious and open to learning, growing, and becoming self-aware.

Betrayal: A Gift and a Teacher

“Every failure, obstacle, or hardship is an opportunity in disguise. Success in many cases is failure turned inside out.”

—Mary Kay Ash
American businessperson

We know it’s hard to choose the path of renewal. When you have been betrayed, you often feel helpless and hopeless. You experience doubt and confusion, question your self-worth and your sense of belonging, and are in pain. You may feel as though you have no control over what was “done to you.”

When you remain angry, bitter, or resentful and assume the posture of a victim, you lock into a focus on others’ actions. You become consumed in what “they did to you,” and allow their actions to eat away at your spirit. Over time your resentment grows and self-pity sets in. You may even choose to betray intentionally in return because “they deserve it.” Others experience you as arrogant, self-serving, and irresponsible. You are not a person others want to be around or work with.

Alternatively, you may choose to embrace the pain of betrayal. This choice takes you on a journey of healing and renewal. On this journey, you replace anger and bitterness with compassion. Through compassion, you seek to understand your pain and to work through it to heal and to deepen your understanding of your relationships with yourself and with others. You extend the benefit of the doubt and are willing to hear alternate perspectives. You are curious about insights that may come. With courage, you may even ask yourself if you may have contributed in some way to what occurred.

Through healing, you become:

More self-aware

More deeply compassionate

More self-confident

Open to learn more about life, people, and relationships

You become a person others want to work with because they know they will have permission to be human when they are around you.

When you deny yourself the opportunity to heal from your pain, you betray yourself. You erode your life force. You rob yourself of insights, lessons, your restored capacity for trust, and potential future opportunities. You rob yourself of yourself. When you choose to embrace your pain and work through it, you regain your wholeness. As a participant said during one of our Trust Building1 programs, “I am grateful for my experiences of betrayal because of how they contributed to the person I am today. They led me to the relationships I hold most precious and to the place I am in my life.”

“I am grateful for my experiences of betrayal because of how they contributed to the person I am today.”

In this way, betrayal can be a teacher. When you heal and renew, you transform yourself, your relationships, your organizations, and the world around you.

The Three Vantage Points

You can learn from betrayal, whether you have been betrayed, have betrayed someone else, or want to help others work through betrayal. In this book, we provide information relevant to all vantage points at the beginning of each chapter, and then we give information and advice that is specific to each of these vantage points. Because human relationships are systems, it is unlikely that you will ever fall into just one of these categories. If you are honest with yourself when someone has breached your trust, you will often find that you also betrayed that person or yourself. And when you become cognizant of your behavior that betrayed another, you may also discover that you were reacting to having been betrayed by that person, or by someone else entirely. Often, we find that people engage in trust-breaking behavior at work when they have been betrayed at home. Betrayal, as we’ve said, begets betrayal.

Because broken trust is so pervasive in the workplace, it is likely that you see it around you even if you don’t feel directly involved in it. We are often asked by caring people who are concerned about other individuals or the overall work environment what they can do to help others rebuild trust. We applaud the intentions and courage of these people. If you are one of them, we first point you to the material about what to do when you feel betrayed. Why? Because you cannot be an instrument for healing and rebuilding trust if you are currently troubled by (or suffering from) unresolved pain yourself. It’s likely that as you help others, your own feelings will surface. Those feelings may be related to what you see in the workplace, or they may be feelings you carry from home or even from your childhood. Be prepared to go on your own journey as you set out to accompany others on theirs. Others have to see you as trustworthy before they will open up to you and be willing to receive your help.

The Seven Steps for Healing

“The man who does things makes mistakes, but he never makes the biggest mistake of all—doing nothing.”

—Benjamin Franklin
Statesman, scientist, and one of
America’s founding fathers

Whether you are feeling betrayed, coming to terms with having betrayed another, or simply trying to help, the Seven Steps for Healing2 will provide a process to achieve renewal.

The Seven Steps for Healing model is universal. It emerged out of Dennis’s experience with some of the most basic sources of betrayal: broken promises, dishonesty, and abandonment. He found value in understanding the reasons bad things happened, in integrating the lessons to be learned, in forgiving himself and his betrayer, and in letting go and moving on.

My world came crashing down. I came back from a four-day doctorate research session and discovered that my wife had been having an affair with a co-worker for six months. I was stunned, confused, and disoriented. I was angry and upset. But most of all, I questioned myself: How could I not have noticed?

I loved my wife and our two little boys. For the year and a half after discovering the affair, I did whatever I could to hold the marriage together. I went to counseling to work through my issues and the pain of my failing marriage, but my wife was not willing to join me in this effort.

We worked out an amicable divorce agreement and were awarded joint custody of our boys. While I had my boys on alternating weekends, some holidays and vacations, I lost the life with them that I had cherished.

A very painful part of the early years after the divorce were my long and sad rides home after dropping the boys off at the end of their weekends with me. I cried so hard, I often had to pull over to the side of the road because I couldn’t see straight to drive.

The Seven Steps for Healing

1. Observe and acknowledge what happened
Observe the situation to become aware of what happened, and then fully acknowledge the impact on you, others, and your relationships. When you are betrayed, you often experience the impact as a loss: the loss of what was or the loss of what could have been. For healing to take place, you need to acknowledge that loss.

2. Allow feelings to surface
Express your feelings, whether they are anger, disappointment, hurt, sadness, fear, guilt, or confusion. Give yourself permission to feel upset. Find appropriate ways to release your emotions and give voice to your pain. Allowing your feelings to surface brings about a “release” that allows you to begin to work through your hurt and supports the healing process.

3. Get and give support
Identify support that will help you to recognize where you are stuck or struggling. Support helps you to move from blaming to problem solving. It helps you to move from being “the victim” to taking responsibility for yourself, your job, and your life so that you grow from the experience. You can find support within yourself or from other people.

4. Reframe the experience
Use your hurt and pain as stepping stones for healing. Consider the bigger picture, and what might have been going on for the other person involved and for you. Examine the choices and opportunities you now have. Find the purpose of this event in your life and tease out what you can learn about yourself, others, and relationships.

5. Take responsibility
Courageously look at what part you may have played in what happened. You are not responsible for what was done to you, but you are responsible for how you chose to respond. Consider what you could have done differently, what actions you can take now to change the situation, and the gains you make by taking responsibility.

6. Forgive yourself and others
Compassionately ask what needs to happen for forgiveness to take place. Reflect on how this betrayal occurred. Forgiveness does not mean excusing the offending behavior but rather observing how the betrayal has affected you and others. Consider again your feelings surrounding the betrayal, and decide to release yourself from the burden of carrying those feelings.

7. Let go and move on
Ask what needs to be said or done to put this experience behind you. You do not forget the betrayal or fail to protect yourself from further betrayals. There is a difference between remembering and “hanging on,” and remembering so as to help yourself and others by drawing on the lessons learned. Stronger and more self-aware than you were before the trust was broken, you look forward rather than backward. You choose to act differently as you integrate and celebrate your learning.

This intense pain continued for quite some time before subsiding. What I was grieving was the loss of my daily life with my sons—the loss of what could have been, but now would never be. I missed tucking the boys into bed every night, rubbing their backs as they dozed off to sleep. I missed making them breakfast and putting them on the school bus.

In my grieving, I needed to allow my feelings to surface, to release my anger, my hurt, and my deep pain. And I did, again and again.

While living this chapter of my life was a nightmare, years later I was able to see its enormously redeeming value. A powerful lesson for me was that while I felt victimized, I certainly did not need to remain a victim. I chose to work through my pain and learned a lot about myself. I became more sensitive to others in pain, and how I could help them.

Through my healing, I was eventually led to my future wife and business partner, Michelle. Together, we developed the work that we do today. And my healing gave birth to the framework of these Seven Steps for Healing.

The other basis for the Seven Steps for Healing model is the extensive research on the grieving process. Experiencing a betrayal has much in common with experiencing a death. There is a sense of loss. Healing after a betrayal, as after a death, requires us to move through a series of emotions. In her examination of death and dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross defined the steps of the grieving process as shock, anger, denial, rationalization, depression, and acceptance.3 Our Seven Steps for Healing model (see box and figure) tells you how to take action to work through the feelings Kübler-Ross observed. These Steps show a manageable path to help you acknowledge and move through your hurt, with support, to reframe your experience, take responsibility, let go, and move on. Through the Seven Steps you will learn the lessons that betrayal has to teach you about relationships, life, and yourself.

Healing is a process that can’t be short-circuited. The effects of broken trust won’t go away on their own volition; you have to work through the process of healing. We have all been victims and been betrayed, we have all been perpetrators and betrayed others, and we all have a general desire to help others. No matter where you start, the Seven Steps for Healing are intended to serve as a framework to help you work through the painful feelings of betrayal toward rebuilding the trust that will restore your confidence and commitment and reignite your energy.

Each of the Seven Steps represents a phase of the healing process. Although they are numbered sequentially, people do not necessarily work through them in a linear fashion. You may be experiencing multiple Steps at the same time; it is very common to work on observation and acknowledgment (Step One) at the same time as you are allowing your feelings to surface (Step Two) and seeking support (Step Three). Only the starting point, awareness (Step One), is fixed. You may complete one Step and move to the next, only to re-experience aspects of the earlier Step. Feelings come in waves; there are highs and lows, ebbs and flows. All of that is movement toward healing.

“There is no comparison between that which is lost by not succeeding and that which is lost by not trying.”

—Francis Bacon
British statesman and philosopher

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Introduction: Betrayal Is Universal

The Betrayal Continuum 2

The Impact of Betrayal 4

Betrayal: A Gift and a Teacher 6

The Three Vantage Points 8

The Seven Steps for Healing 9

Step 1 Observe and Acknowledge What Happened 15

When You Have Been Betrayed 17

When You Have Betrayed Others 22

When You Want to Help Others Rebuild Trust 27

Step 2 Allow Feelings to Surface 31

Ways to Surface Your Feelings 34

When You Have Been Betrayed 39

When You Have Betrayed Others 41

When You Want to Help Others Rebuild Trust 43

Step3 Get and Give Support 47

Ways to Get Support 49

When You Have Been Betrayed 54

When You Have Betrayed Others 56

When You Want to Help Others Rebuild Trust 58

Step 4 Reframe the Experience

See the Bigger Picture 64

Focus on Choices and Opportunities 69

Identify the Lessons 69

When You Have Been Betrayed 73

When You Have Betrayed Others 75

When You Want to Help Others Rebuild Trust 77

Step 5 Take Responsibility 81

Determine What Part You Own 82

Take Action 83

Realize What You Gain 84

When You Have Been Betrayed 86

When You Have Been Betrayed others 90

When You Want to Help Others Rebuild Trust 95

Step 6 Forgive Yourself and Others 99

Forgive Yourself 101

Forgive Others 103

When You Have Been Betrayed 104

When You Have Been Betrayed Others 111

When You Want to Help Others Rebuild Trust 113

Step 7 Let Go And Move On 115

Accept What Is So 116

How You Know When You Are Ready to Move On 119

Moving On Is Choosing to Act Differently 121

Integrate and Celebrate 123

When You Have Been Betrayed 124

When You Have Been Betrayed Others 127

When You Want to Help others Rebuild Trust 129

Conclusion: Renewing Confidence, Commitment, and Energy 131

The Healing Journey 131

The Outcome: Confidence, Commitment, and Energy 139

Transforming Others' Lives: Helping Rebuild Trust 146

Notes 149

Acknowledgements 151

Index 155

About the Authors 161

Working with the Authors 163

Trust Building® Resources 165

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Rebuilding Trust in the Workplace: Seven Steps to Renew Confidence, Commitment, and Energy 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
kjarmstrong More than 1 year ago
As a corporate communications and organizational development consultant, I know Dennis and Michelle and their work very well. This book not only brings their research and experience to life, but also channels their unparalleled combination of professionalism and heart-felt compassion. Their approach to clients, which is masterfully expressed in this book, reminds me of the line in a Sugarland song: they know "which hands to shake, and which hands to hold." In Rebuilding Trust in the Workplace, they "shake hands" by addressing the professional need to restore the "confidence, commitment and energy" that underpins our personal satisfaction at work as well as our organizations' results. At the same time, they "hold our hands" by empathetically supporting us while we as readers come to terms with how we've been hurt or have hurt others at work. They share their own stories that let us know they've been there, too -- as both the person whose trust was broken, and the person who broke trust. While there are some "tough love" sections that encourage us to stop blaming others and instead take responsibility for our part in the situation, the overall impression is one of comfort, hope and possibility. This book is quick to read, appropriate to pick up when you have just a few minutes, and easy to follow. Yet it's not superficial because it gets right to the heart of the matter. Often, Dennis and Michelle put words on what I'd been feeling and thinking -- especially about times that I had, usually through carelessness or rushing, hurt someone else. I highly recommend this book for any individual who wants to improve their relationships at work, and for leaders who want to set a new standard for connection within their own relationships or within their departments. I believe that by following the steps they outline, we can all get rid of the baggage that's pulling our work environments down in terms of productivity and satisfaction. One last point: although this book is written for the workplace, I found myself applying the concepts in my personal life, especially in my relationship with my teenage daughters. I hope that Dennis and Michelle write another book that gives even more direction about how to rebuild trust in families.