Common myths about trust

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Common myths about trust

It’s essential to learn about trust because there are some very unhelpful myths about the subject. Below are some common myths and the truths about trust.

Myth

Trust is simple, innate and easy.

Truths

  • Trust is highly complex, emotionally provocative and means different things to different people.
  • Trust is multidimensional – there are three major dimensions of trust – contractual, communication and competence:
  • Contractual trust is trust of character – trust that people do what they say they will do, keep agreements and act with win/win intentions
  • Communication trust is trust of disclosure – trust that people openly and willingly share information, tell the truth and admit mistakes, and give and receive feedback constructively
  • Competence trust is trust of capability – trust that people acknowledge each other’s skills and abilities, involve others in decisions and seek their input, and help them learn new skills.

You need to practise all three types of trust to build and sustain trust in relationships at work.

Myth

Once broken, trust cannot be repaired.

Truths

  • Trust can be repaired and restored. However, it takes willingness and work– willingness to take responsibility for one’s part in the dynamic (whether you are on the doing or receiving end) and work to process through the seven steps to rebuild trust.
  • The first step of the process is to acknowledge what happened and the impact of the breach on those affected.
  • The second step is to allow feelings to surface. If anger and hurt are denied, or not constructively worked through, they do not go away. Instead, they fester and manifest in very negative ways – mentally, physically and emotionally. Working through feelings is important if you are to begin the healing process.
  • Getting support (the third step) helps individuals reframe their experience (fourth step), and shift from blaming to problem solving in order to take responsibility for what is theirs to own (fifth step).

Myth

Trust is the leader’s responsibility.

Truths

  • While leaders need to take the initiative in building trust within their teams or organisations, they do not have sole responsibility.
  • Trust is everyone’s responsibility. No matter what their level within the organisation, everyone needs to play a role and take responsibility for how they behave in their workplace relationships.
  • Building trust starts with raising people’s awareness of the dimensions and behaviours of trust.
  • Leaders need to give people a common language of trust and teach them about the three dimensions of trust and the respective behaviours that build each type of trust.

Myth

Betrayal is big, bad and dark.

Truths

  • The word ‘betrayal’ may conjure negative thoughts, such as master-minded deceit, treason and treachery.
  • From our research and experience, we define betrayal as a breach or perception of a breach on a continuum from minor to major, unintentional to intentional.
  • Although the major intentional betrayals in the workplace make the corporate news headlines (Murdoch, Enron and so on), the truth is that 90 per cent of all betrayals in the workplace are minor unintentional betrayals, such as repeatedly showing up late for work, missing deadlines or not acknowledging one another.
  • Minor betrayals are most insidious because they are easily noticed, but often go unaddressed. They accumulate and become major betrayals over time.

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