Trust Busters: 6 Easy Ways to Blow It with Your Team

You’re not included in ad hoc team meetings. Your team members don’t seek out your input or involvement. You feel out of the loop. Is it them? Or is it you?

There are some easy ways to erode trust with your team:

  1. Be the Showboat.

I was on a project team that collectively created great new ideas and options to share with the leadership team. One team member decided to give our VP a preview without telling the rest of us. We soon learned that he shared our ideas as his ideas. The team determined he was in it for himself and was willing to coop others’ work to reach that objective. Our trust in him took a big hit.

Get in the habit of sharing credit and saying, “Meredith had a great idea and we’ve adopted it.”

  1. Missing deadlines.

Missed deadlines signal that others can’t count on you – especially when it’s a frequent occurrence.

If you see deadline challenges – speak up early. Explain that you have problems based on resource availability or lack of understanding. Offer an alternative. Share what you can do. Negotiate an alternative that will ensure the deadline is met upfront and early – not after it’s been missed.

  1. Public shaming before a conversation.

“Finance has been very difficult to work with on this project, so we don’t have the information we need from them yet.” This may be true, but if you bring this up with your boss or in a group setting when you haven’t raised it with the Finance leader first, you may be more interested in the public call-out than solving the problem.

First, go the accountable person and discuss how to solve a problem. When there is no response or your request is ignored – then raise your concern to the right people. Trust means that you will be transparent and try to fix the problem directly first before raising the problem with others.

  1. All about me.

Team members that always have special requests and needs, yet never reciprocate can quickly create trust issues. Others conclude that you are only concerned about your issues v. being part of the team.

Offer to help others when they need it and they will likely do the same for you. It’s a two-way street.

  1. Regularly wing it.

Don’t be the one that when real information is needed – just makes up answers as best you can. Your team wants to know that what you provide is accurate and they can count on it. If you aren’t sure – say so. Say, this is my ‘best guess’ or ‘I’ll need to do more research before I can answer.’ Be transparent so you are credible.

  1. Share your intent.

A big factor in building trust is sharing your intent. Trust is eroded when our actions are misinterpreted.

As an example, the coworker who asks about your work status every day can make you like you and your work are questioned or they are micromanaging you. But, if your coworker shared ‘the prior person in your role often sent me info late and affected my deadlines. That situation created an issue with my boss, so doing a daily check-in helps me make sure I can deliver my work on time.’ This intent reframes the situation.

Or, the team member who keeps reworking your project plan due dates can give the impression that they don’t trust your planning ability. But, if this team member shared, ‘I have a lot of reviewers in our group that want to see our report before it is submitted, and I need to allow time for that review and reflect their input. This review time is important for us to be successful.’ That sets the context and intent for actions that have more to do with the situation than you. But you only have that insight if the intent is shared.


Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults and can be followed @pattibjohnson.