10 Ways to Destroy Trust at Work or at Home

by Ron Haynes

Trust, belief, assurance, certainty, sureness, hope, dependability, confidence, faith, expectation, responsibility. No matter how you define it, trust is a vital part of any relationship, whether at work, at home, amongst a group of friends, or in the political arena. Trust is a critical factor in who we associate with, who we work for, who we marry, and who we vote for.

The interesting thing about trust is that it is never a black or white issue. Trust is always a matter of degrees. The degree of trust you put into someone is based on your history with them. How trustworthy have they been in the past? The degree to which you trust can grow by leaps and bounds if someone earns it, but trust is always a matter of degrees. Your company may trust you with a hefty expense account, but not trust you without an occasional audit. You trust your teenager to return home before curfew, but you don’t trust her to stay out all night. We trust total strangers to not mug us when in an elevator. We trust people to obey traffic signals. Trust, on almost every level, is prevalent in everything we do on a daily basis.

Trust can take years to build, but only a moment to destroy.

Generally, we trust someone until we’re proven otherwise, starting most relationships with a certain level of trust and building from there. So, it’s important that we don’t tear down what can take years to build. Avoid these 10 ways that trust can be destroyed in your relationships.

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1. Bait and switch. Promise one thing to someone, then change your mind without giving that person a heads up. Your reason for changing may be valid and understandable, but if the other person feels betrayed, you just destroyed your trust with them.

2. Praise inflation. Brown-nosing of any sort is easy to spot from a mile away and no one likes a flatterer. Your words are your personal currency. Don’t devalue them by printing more than necessary and injecting them into your personal economy. People will never trust your praise for others if you overdo it.

3. Outright OR hidden dishonesty. How many times do you have to lie to be considered a liar? Once may be plenty for many people. Once you lie, deceive, spin the truth a little, or conveniently leave out an important fact, people wonder what if there are other issues where you’ve used deceit to advance your agenda. One lie can destroy trust enough to sink a career, a marriage, a friendship, or a project.

4. Over-promise and under-deliver. If other people are relying on you, don’t embarrass yourself by not living up to those expectations … especially when you’re the one who made the promise to deliver. Many up-and-comers have become down-and-outers when others relied on their loose promises that were not kept or fulfilled.

5. Communicate indifference. Failing to return phone calls or emails is a silent way of saying, “You don’t matter to me.” If you’re really that busy, set an appointment to speak with that person at a later date, but always get back with them. Good communication builds trust.

6. Fail to look someone in the eye. It’s said that the eyes are windows to the soul and if you constantly have the shades down, people wonder what you’re hiding. If you won’t look someone in the eye when making a commitment, you’re really setting yourself up for failure. They just won’t believe you or trust you.

7. Let someone else do the heavy lifting. If you act like a seagull manager and take credit for someone’s work, do you really think they won’t notice? Would you? Why should someone trust their ideas to you if you steal them? Always give credit where credit is due.

8. Never use the mea culpa. Whether you’re denying responsibility or denying reality, failing to admit when you’re wrong will destroy any trust you’ve built. You’ll gain more credibility than you can imagine by quickly disclosing and acknowledging your mistakes.

9. What, ME support YOU? If you don’t bother to provide reasonable support to others, you run the risk of creating resentment that may last for years. Watching someone else’s back can pay dividends in the future, as can supporting someone else publicly. Failure to support others when they need it will erode any trust you may have built with that person.

10. Be hypocritical. People can spot a phony in an instant. Always insure that there is no gap between your words and your actions. In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini, says that consistency of words and actions is considered a positive trait across all cultures. No one likes, or trusts, a hypocrite.

One of the most important and highly desirable characteristics of a truly wise and successful person is the ability to inspire and maintain trust, but many otherwise decent people destroy trust by bait and switch, failing to support, or being a hypocrite. Build trust by building solid relationships at work or at home based on trust … and insure that you don’t destroy it by falling into one of these habits.

photo credit: Sugar Pond

[tags]trust, trustworthy, relationships, career, commitment, friends, insurance, management, manager, work[/tags]

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 988 articles on The Wisdom Journal.


The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.