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3 Top Trust Breaking Behaviors in the Workplace

Signs and Symptoms That Trust is Being Eroded Within Your Team

What this Article Covers:

3 Symptoms of Trust Erosion 
Trust Breaking Behavior #1: Gossip at Work
Trust Breaking Behavior #2: Breaking Confidentiality
Trust Breaking Behavior #3: Getting Even
Building Trust in the Workplace

The simplest things can turn a productive team into one where gossip, backbiting and other trust breaking behavior overshadow the work.

It is because the level of trust within a team and between individuals is eroded. It worsens with each small betrayal and each negative encounter. Without good communication, that damage is never fixed, leaving the core foundation of the relationships crumbling.

It is ultimately up to leaders to identify that there is a problem and begin building trust in the workplace.

There is good news in all of this: there are very obvious symptoms of trust erosion. Once you spot the three early signs of trust erosion, you can take action right away to stop the damage—an even reverse it.

1. Gossip At Work

gossiping women in office cubicalEveryone wants to be on a team where they feel free to share ideas, where they can communicate openly and honestly about issues and challenges. Building trust in the workplace creates an environment where people want to work.

Yet every day, trust is tested in team relationships, especially in the form of gossip at work.

Gossip is the number-one trust breaking behavior within teams. Rather than going directly to the individual with an issue or concern, members talk to everyone else. The grapevine begins to flourish.

As the time goes on, if the gossip is unchecked, it becomes more prevalent, happens more often, becomes more disruptive. Soon people began to hear about things a co-worker said behind their backs. They in turn gossip. Negative feelings grow. Distrust grows. Once the feeling of distrust takes hold, team members no longer work well with each other—they watch what they say, don’t voice ideas and exhibit other coping behaviors. Stress rises, as do other trust breaking behaviors.

When you notice team members talking about one another behind each other’s back, this is an immediate sign that there has been damage to the foundational level of trust within your team. It must be addressed to begin building trust in the workplace.

2. Breaking Confidentiality

breaking confidentially in the workplace breaks trustSimilar to gossip at work, breaking confidentiality has to do with how people in your team are communicating—it also says something important about trust of character.

Sometimes a personal issue may interfere with a person’s ability to meet deadlines, or how they are functioning at work. Being able to share issues with leadership or team members so they understand the outside pressure or an extraordinary circumstance is a factor in maintaining trust and keep projects on track.

But people are reluctant to discuss personal matters in a climate where confidences are broken and rumor mills are fed.

This is also true of professional confidentiality. From company trade secrets, to intellectual property, to individuals’ ideas for market growth with a new product or system. When these things are publicly shared, others become suspicious about whether their information is safe.

Building trust in the workplace means that people feel their personal and professional information is safe. Disclosing information members have been trusted to keep private—whether it is personal or professional—violates trust. Breaches of confidentiality encourages misunderstandings.

When a leader hears that confidentiality is being broken it should be immediately addressed as a trust breaking behavior that threatens to weaken teams.

3. Getting Even

Getting even in the workplace two men with boxing glovesGossip at work and breaking confidentiality lead to defensiveness and a “get even” attitude among team members. For example: “they said something about me, so I am going to share personal information about them.” Or: “she didn’t get me the information I needed in time, so I’m not going to worry about this deadline I committed to meeting for her.”

This tit-for-tat behavior will continue to escalate if not addressed: further decreasing the effectiveness of the team, eroding trust, creating deep feelings of betrayal and causing stress in the lives of all team members involved.

This trust breaking behavior is easy to spot because it to will get shared through the grapevine. People will begin to gossip about perceived wrongs, or use one person’s past behavior as an excuse for their current bad behavior.

When a leader hears or sees this “getting even” mindset, it must be addressed immediately to stop the erosion of trust within the team. Once this behavior is turned around, people feel less worried about making small mistakes and are able to begin building trust in the workplace.

Building Trust in the Workplace

Trust is fragile and our everyday behaviors—even those that are unconscious—can break it.

female coworkers celebrating a successAs a leader, you can turn your team around by modeling behavior that begins building trust in the workplace. People unconsciously follow behavior modeled by leaders, bosses and even administration. If leaders allow a behavior to persist, they are unconsciously saying to their team that this behavior is acceptable.

Trust begins with you!

The first step in correcting trust breaking behavior is to consider how your behavior has contributed to the presence or absence of trust in your team dynamics. From there, model the behavior you wish to see, address the issue by discussing how things should be handled you’re your team and follow through. When you see one of these behaviors, address it with the offending team member. Make it clear to your staff these behaviors are not tolerated and provide them with healthy ways to communicate to avoid eroding trust.

By addressing common trust breaking behaviors and creating a culture that encourages building trust in the workplace, you will transform your team into one that can transcend any challenge.

Posted in Leadership, Organizational Culture.