Shooting Your Career in the Foot | The Consequences of Squandered Trust

Competition sets its own bar. To succeed we need to know: 

  • Who’s controlling the bar
  • Is it permanent or changing
  • Am I the only one expected to jump
  • What do I need to do to get over it
  • Can I count on a fair assessment of my effort 

It’s a problem when we can’t trust consistency, support, and fairness. 

The trust factor 

To trust and be trusted: An essential precept in business and our careers. 

It starts and ends with us. Trust is actually quite simple: It’s doing what you say you’re going to do. 

That puts a serious burden on being careful about what you say. Today, however, communication has become, among many, fast and loose! 

We communicate by: 

  • Cell phone text using cryptic codes, BTW with LOL
  • Tweets, using 144 characters, compressing words 4 ur ease, TY
  • Facebook posts, a bit longer, aided by photos and links (the words of others)
  • E-mail, a spacious platform to say what’s on our minds 

No longer are we prone to speak face-to-face or even ear-to-ear. We write, just like in the old days. Sans quill, ballpoint, or felt tip. 

But today, what we say has long legs. Nearly everything we say electronically can be and, likely will be, shared. 

Sometimes we forget to think about what might happen when we write something that is: 

  • Incorrect or distorted
  • Inappropriate or critical
  • Angry or rude
  • Thoughtless or stupid
  • Knee-jerk or mean 

The fallout can be quick. In a blink, it can cost the trust you have painstakingly built, perhaps permanently. 

An apology only stops the bleeding! 

It rarely heals the wound. People trust us to: 

  • Do the right thing
  • Keep ourselves under control
  • Be patient, kind, and responsible
  • Get the facts and be above rumor
  • Think before we speak or act
  • Conduct ourselves professionally and with integrity 

A personal brand without trustworthiness undercuts our potential for success. 

Imagine being on the receiving end of these words from a boss, colleague, or coworker. What would be your level of trust going forward? 

  • I can’t believe that you got into a shouting match with that customer. I should fire you for that.
  • I went ahead and told my work group about the program you’ll announce next week since I’m going on vacation tomorrow. 
  • I know I said that I was going to support your idea at today’s meeting, but it looked like it wasn’t going to fly, so I backed off. 
  • As it turned out, I just couldn’t get that assignment done as promised. I had other priorities. 
  • I know I told you I thought you were ready for that senior level job. But I decided to give it to Kim instead. 
  • I never said I was definitely going to give you that special assignment, just that I was thinking about it.  

Trust is a delicate thing. There are words that will crush it immediately. And there are others that just erode it. 

Lost trust is a downward spiral. 

Distrusted bosses end up with employees who: 

  • Keep book on them in case they need to take legal action
  • Have low morale and poor productivity
  • Are wary and anxious
  • Resist change consistently
  • Create an undercurrent of negative chatter 

Distrusted employees will experience: 

  • Intense scrutiny and/or oversight
  • Few opportunities for development
  • Efforts to transfer them or eliminate their jobs
  • Suspicion and avoidance
  • An undercurrent of negative chatter by coworkers 

Be mindful! 

Don’t be cavalier. Think first. Consider unseen audiences. Weigh the implications. Be strategic. 

What you say matters. Few people will take the time to think about what you mean if your words aren’t exactly right. The responsibility is yours to protect your trustworthiness. Being your truest self is the underpinning of business fitness. Please don’t let yourself down! 

Do you have a “loss of trust” story to tell from your career? Was it ever repaired? If so, how? Thanks!

5 thoughts on “Shooting Your Career in the Foot | The Consequences of Squandered Trust

  1. As you say, trust lost is difficult to regain, if not impossible. Sometimes even when I think I’m trusting someone again I realize I’m easily skeptical of what they’re saying.
    It’s also not possible to be perfect and sometimes people make mistakes and need to be forgiven and trusted. There’s a balance in play. Cherry

    • You make a terrific point here about the need to forgive when a trust has been shaken. For sure we all can make mistakes. Earning back a broken trust takes a huge commitment and lots of time. Our best bet is to protect trust in the first place. I love your point about balance too. Thanks, Cherry. ~Dawn

  2. Excellent examples of the loss of trust in the workplace, Dawn. All too often we see leaders practicing “disinformation” ala Cold War tactics. New communication tools mean that transparency is becoming highly prized, not just by our customers, but by our employees. Management needs to re-evaluate their strategies and employees need to practice the same level of clear communication they’d like to receive.

    • I love your observation about leaders “practicing ‘disinformation’ ala Cold War tactics.” It’s a chilling truth in many places. Never before has sharpened, sensible, and strategic use of language been more important and, hopefully, top of mind. I share your view about management’s need to re-evaluate strategies. Once trust is lost and a culture of disregard of trust takes over, there is a kind of chaos that infects everything.

      Thanks, Cindy, for adding so much depth to this issue. Great to hear from you! ~Dawn

  3. Pingback: 5 Ways to Avoid Sabotaging Your Career | Business Fitness

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