Merge's Blog

Is trust in the workplace earned or lost?

trust in the workplaceRecently, there have been a couple of situations that have occurred that have made me think about trust in the workplace, and how important it is for a strong relationship to exist between leaders and their employees.  When I first started working full-time (back in 1988!), the prevailing sentiment was that “Trust should be earned“.  In other words, if you come to work on my team, then you have to prove yourself, and once you’ve done that, then I, the leader, will trust you.  Turns out that many managers and supervisors (still) subscribe to this point of view.

But over the years, I have grown to take a different approach to building trust in the workplace.  My philosophy for many years has been “You have my trust unless you prove me otherwise“.  So, my going-in position with all my employees, from day one, is “I trust you”.  And I will only change my mind if you do something that makes me reconsider my opinion and causes me to lose trust in you.

I have found this philosophy to be a much more effective and successful approach to building loyalty, boosting performance, and creating positive working relationships.  In fact, I am so accustomed to this way of thinking that I forgot that many managers and supervisors still advocate the “trust should be earned” mantra.  Well, that is until earlier this week when a situation occurred that jogged my memory.  And got me thinking about what the popular opinion is today.

So, I’m curious.  What’s your philosophy?  Does trust have to be earned, or is it there to be lost?  What’s been your experience?  Any real-life positives or negatives to either?  Please comment below.

One Comment

  • Depending on the circumstances either view of trust may be your reality. When you take on a new job, your supervisor, your peers and your staff will tend to base their trust approach on their experiences with your predecessor, or your reputation in your previous world. I have experienced both attitudes to trust. And interestingly in one instance both at the same time: my new peers expected me to earn their trust, based on their experience with my predecessor, and my new staff gave me their trust based on what they thought they knew of me before I arrived.


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