How to Lose Employee Trust in 8 Easy Steps by@vinitabansal
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How to Lose Employee Trust in 8 Easy Steps

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The most important factor that impacts an employee’s motivation at work is the level of trust they feel towards their manager. High levels of trust make them feel valued, energizes them to work harder, and make them persist through difficulties and setbacks. Knowing that they’re being looked after keeps them focused on the task without being distracted by the uncertainties in their environment. A mistake—wrong decision, bad strategy, poor execution—isn’t looked down upon. Trust enables employees to prioritize intent over action.
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Vinita Bansal

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The most important factor that impacts an employee’s motivation at work is the level of trust they feel towards their manager. High levels of trust make them feel valued, energizes them to work harder, and make them persist through difficulties and setbacks. Knowing that they’re being looked after keeps them focused on the task without being distracted by the uncertainties in their environment. A mistake—wrong decision, bad strategy, poor execution—isn’t looked down upon. Trust enables employees to prioritize intent over action.

Low levels of trust reverses the equation which negatively impacts their productivity and performance. They are constantly on the lookout, watchful of how their actions will be perceived. Time and energy that’s better spent in doing work is wasted in useless arguments and discussions. Lack of trust turns minor disappointments into major setbacks. Negative outlook breeds suspicion, frustration, and resentment which leads to poor quality work.

While it’s important to actively engage in behaviors that promote trust, it’s equally important to get rid of the ones that kill it. When you don’t spend time noticing how you come across to others, it’s hard to change and adapt—does your behavior make them happy or annoyed? Do they feel comfortable to ask questions or shut down? Do they feel supported and cared for or neglected and abandoned?

Once leaders develop self-awareness, they create the possibility for shifting, a master skill of conscious leaders. Shifting is moving from closed to open, from defensive to curious, from wanting to be right to wanting to learn, and from fighting for the survival of the individual ego to leading from a place of security and trust—Jim Dethmer

You can’t fix something when you don’t even know it is a problem. Watch out for these 8 subtle behaviors that often go unnoticed and lead to loss of trust.


8 behaviors that lead to loss of trust

Talk without the walk

“Speaking at length about the importance of a healthy work-life, but then sending emails late in the night.”

“Telling a team member to focus on work, then pinging them every hour to know about the status.”

“Expecting your team to be on top of communication, while frequently ignoring messages that need your attention.”

If this is you, following a different set of standards for yourself and others breaks trust. We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior. Inconsistent and unpredictable behavior leads to distrust.

Don’t just talk, put your words to action!

Over promise, under deliver

“Everyone will soon get a new MacBook Pro,” but that never happens.

“I will take care of it,” while you do nothing and the problem persists.

“You’ll get a hike soon,” but that soon never comes.

Make a promise, but don’t fail to follow-through. If, for whatever reason, what you said earlier can’t be met, don’t leave it hanging; reset expectations.

Nothing breaks trust more than not following through on your commitments; not doing the things you said you are going to do. When you say one thing and do another thing or make promises but do not keep up with those promises, people start doubting your intention.

Don’t just promise, follow through on those commitments!

Playing a victim

“The delivery got delayed because we didn’t get the requirements on time.”

“We have done our work. It’s integration with another team that’s taking longer.”

“Our pitch is perfect. They just don’t get it.”

Blaming someone or something else for problems is relieving but is also paralyzing. Feeling that the situation is out of your control makes you obsess about the problem as opposed to finding a solution. Once the victim mindset becomes your thing, you spread a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness in your team. Your team can’t trust you when they can’t even rely on you to solve problems.

Instead of acting like a victim, play the role of a creator. Change your orientation by consciously shifting your mindset from the problem to the outcome you desire. Help your team navigate difficult situations; show them the power of owning outcomes and taking responsibility.

Focusing exclusively on what is in our power magnifies and enhances our power. But every ounce of energy directed at things we can’t actually influence is wasted—self-indulgent and self-destructive—Ryan Holiday

Don’t engage in drama, shift to empowerment!

Waver back-n-forth

“Asking your team to prioritize X one week and Y another week while leaving X open and hanging.”

“Squeezing in too many items to your plan since you can’t make up your mind on what’s more important.”

“Pushing your team to hurry up on the delivery and then putting that goal on the backseat to make space for quality.”

Being indecisive about the goals of your team with constantly shuffling priorities can lead to a lot of stress, frustration, and anxiety in the team. All the effort that goes into vain turns into pain. Your constantly moving targets can’t be trusted.

Don’t flip-flop, have clearly defined priorities and expectations!

Becoming a naysayer

“Can’t let go of a minor feedback even with a perfectly great outcome.”

“Pass offensive comments with the expectation that it will set others right.”

“Keep bringing up that the project will fail even though it has a very high chance of success.”

When you constantly look for negative aspects without highlighting the positives, it drains other people’s energies. Speaking negatively about others in front of someone also makes them think you’ll speak about them this way too. When negativity is all you seek, there’s no place for trust to kick in.

Don’t waste time in negativity, look for the bright side of things!

Act as a know-it-all

“Try to pretend when you don’t know something.”

“Refuse to say ‘I don’t know.’”

“Ready to share solutions without properly listening to the problems.”

You may not see it, but everyone hates the person who always has all the right answers (or pretends to know-it-all). You cannot form meaningful connections unless you’re also willing to share your vulnerability. Others can see when you’re faking it and when you really know something. Faking it kills trust.

Operate always with integrity and honesty in the world, even when that means facing things that are difficult to face. Be genuine. Be honest. Don’t fake anything. Truth and authenticity breed respect and trust—Robert Iger

Don’t pretend when you don’t know something, stay real by showing your flaws and weaknesses!

Avoid confrontation

“Let go of the bad behavior in the team.”

“Avoid sharing the real feedback to save others' feelings even though it prevents them from growing.”

“Make excuses to avoid facing a conflict in the hope that it will disappear on its own.”

Avoiding conflicts does not build relationships, it destroys them. Refusing to handle bad behavior in the team, not saying things that others need to hear, and leaving difficult conversations open for a long time does not please others. It annoys them. Don’t use a feedback sandwich or try to sugarcoat your message. Say what you need to say without hesitation.

Don’t avoid the discomfort, embrace it!

Boundless freedom

“Empowering people without giving them the tools necessary to succeed.”

“Not providing clarity on decisions they can make on their own and ones that need your involvement.”

“Sharing too much information or hiding information they need to succeed.”

Whether it’s making decisions, sharing information, or any other form of communication, boundaryless freedom only leads to distraction and confusion. Trust breaks when people don’t get the context and clarity needed to do well.

Don’t operate at the extremes, define boundaries and work within them!


Summary

  1. You will lose trust as a manager if you don’t pay attention to how you behave around others and the way they perceive it.
  2. Only tell your team to do something that you can also demonstrate in action. Don’t just talk the talk, also walk the walk.
  3. Follow through on your commitments. Keeping promises doesn’t mean fulfilling them at all costs. Intention is more important than the outcome.
  4. Instead of passing blame when things don’t work out as expected, take responsibility for them. Actively work with your team to brainstorm solutions.
  5. Don’t flip-flop while making decisions and defining priorities. Your team needs focus and clarity to make meaningful contributions.
  6. Negativity sucks into people’s time and energy. Positivity brings joy and motivation to work. There’s no need to play bad cop all the time. Leave room for fun.
  7. Show your team your flaws and imperfections. That’s the only way to build long lasting connections.
  8. Don’t avoid conflicts even if they are uncomfortable. Say what you need to say even if it’s painful to the other person. They need to learn to face the reality of their situation.
  9. Good communication and empowerment does not come with mindless freedom. It requires setting boundaries and sticking to it.

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