skip to main content

Rebuild Trust

To forgive someone who hurt you is easy but to trust them again is next to impossible.

Loss of Trust

As business leaders, we are not perfect.

We are busy with the tasks of running our business, managing people, and marketing our products and services.  We are planning for business growth while attempting to enjoy our personal lives all at the same time.

Occasionally, the mechanics of simply managing our businesses overshadow the relationships we have with the people we work with, and we accidentally compromise their dignity, respect, and trust.

These accidental injuries to our trusted staff happen in many innocent and innocuous ways.

An ill-though-out comment, a bit of gossip, or a poorly executed joke can cause great harm.  Unintentionally assigning a project to one person instead of another, seemingly favoring one employee over others, or being slow to react in disciplining another employee will cause injury to not only one person but to your entire team.

When this happens, and it will, what do you do?

Steps to Rebuild Trust

It was difficult enough to gain the trust of your team, so once the trust is lost, the new problem is how to get it back.  Here are six steps to follow in regaining the trust of your team.

Step 1. Acknowledge what happened.

One of the greatest mistakes leaders make when trust is lost is to assume trust will return on its own. This view is both unrealistic and irresponsible.  While a single person may have been directly affected, the entire team has also been impacted.  Healing needs to occur both for the individual and the larger group.

Step 2. Feelings need to surface.

People need an opportunity to voice their concerns and express their feelings.  These opportunities to express their pain needs to be in an environment that is constructive and open.  They need to know that you, as the business leader, understand what they are saying and are going to respond appropriately.

Step 3. Provide support.

You need to recognize the demands of your team during this period of healing.  Your staff needs better information, to know where they stand in relationship with you, and that their skills and abilities are still valued.

Step 4. Take responsibility.

It is not helpful to try to spin the truth or cover mistakes. It does not serve you or the relationship. Something quite powerful occurs when we tell the impeccable truth with no exceptions, no justifications, and no rationalizations. Telling the truth is the fundamental basis for trust in workplace relationships. Three simple words, “I am sorry,” reflect taking responsibility and go a long way to rebuilding trust.

Step 5. Forgive.

Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. It is about freeing ourselves and others from the anger, bitterness, and resentment that can deplete our individual and collective energies. With forgiveness, we all heal for the future by changing our attitude about the past.

Step 6. Move on.

Leaders need to help people accept what has happened. Acceptance is not condoning what was done, but experiencing the reality of what happened without denying, disowning, or resenting it. It is helping employees separate themselves from their preoccupation with the past and helping them invest their emotional energies in the present and in creating a different future.

The Bible

The first thing to remember is that our trust is to be found in God.  We humans are, and will always be, failable.  Proverbs 3:5-6 says.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

As business leaders who will occasionally make unfortunate offenses against our employees, we need to remind ourselves that our hearts are for our employee’s wellbeing.

Scripture reminds us of this.

not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:4)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

Following God’s commands, we are to know we are not perfect, and when we make a transgression, we are to correct that error out of love and concern not for our selves, but for those of our employees.