Trust levels are at an all-time low in business, government, and society, which is having a devastatingly negative impact on the workplace. Organizations need to address the reasons why trust is in short supply if they wish to avoid the crippling costs exacted by poor morale, low productivity, high stress, constant conflict, and increased turnover.
Of course, the first hurdle is overcoming denial—because nobody thinks they’re part of the problem. Surveys show that 97% of the population view themselves as trustworthy, which tends to contradict our personal experiences. In fact, other surveys paint an entirely different picture. 96% of Americans admit to lying occasionally, 86% say they’ve falsified facts on their resume, 75% have stolen something from work at least once, 60% admit to cheating on tests, and 40% have lied about being sick in the last 12 months.
In spite of these facts, nearly every person we work with (97%) thinks they’re trustworthy. Now, here’s the irony: 80% say they “can’t trust other people.” There is obviously a huge disparity between how people perceive themselves and how they perceive others.
This is why solving the trust problem begins with coming out of denial. We have to admit that, regardless of how trustworthy we think we are, chances are very good others view us differently. In past generations, people trusted others until they did something that proved they were untrustworthy. Today it’s just the opposite: people distrust others until they do something that proves they are trustworthy. There are certain actions required to earn people’s trust.
Our workshop The Power of Trust identifies three trust-breaking behaviors we need to avoid, and three trust-building behaviors we need to develop in order for others to have confidence in us. Let me take a minute to talk about just one of the trust-breaking behaviors—inconsistency. Inconsistency is a lack of authenticity or dependability, when who we are doesn’t align with who we claim to be. Oftentimes we make the mistake of thinking being untrustworthy is about the big things—boldfaced lying, blatant cheating or betrayal, brazenly taking advantage of others. The truth is, a breakdown in trust usually happens gradually over time, by the accumulation of small infractions rather than a single egregious act (a slow leak rather than a blowout).
Here are the most common examples of inconsistencies (see if you can identify any you are guilty of yourself):
- Breaking promises
- Covering mistakes
- Withholding information
- Minimizing problems
- Making yourself look good
- Over-inflating figures
- Failing to speak up
- Having double standards
- Changing positions
- Regularly missing deadlines
- Not responding promptly to emails and voicemails
- Talking behind people’s back
These are the kinds of things we need to pay attention to and improve on, if we want others to trust us. Learning to be reliable in the small things is the foundation for high trust relationships—being a person of our word. This involves saying what we mean and meaning what we say. What we are talking about is becoming a person of integrity—which means being whole and unified. No duplicity or disparity between who we claim to be, and who we are. Our actions match our words.
Learning how to earn the trust of others we work with is the most important factor in driving employee engagement. It all begins by recognizing that others perceive us differently than we perceive ourselves, and doing what we need to close the gap. It’s a lifelong endeavor, but worth the effort. To learn more about our workshop The Power of Trust please email me directly at email@example.com.