5 ways to repair trust at work once it’s broken
When you’ve broken someone’s trust it’s time to listen and learn
One of my best employees lost trust in me. I was moving fast; I wasn’t communicating. It felt like someone was twisting a nail around my heart—rusty and rotten. I was frustrated. I wrote a book on trust and I still blew it.
I was disappointed in myself for hurting an employee. I had one chance to exude confidence and competence, and I blew it, causing her pain and anguish and destroying her trust. This trust fallout (which was my fault), came from a lack of connection. I didn’t give her the essential time, respect, or communication when she most needed me.
Broken trust, although inevitable, is one of the most challenging problems a business will face, and there I was, facing it head-on. I knew that a breakdown in trust could have serious repercussions on my organizational culture, morale, and bottom line.
So, I lept into action, following my own advice, as I know it’s possible to repair trust once it has been broken. To help you do the same, here are five tips that can help you restore trust in your organization:
5 tips to restore trust with employees (after you’ve broken it)
1. Be transparent
It’s essential to be open and honest with employees regarding the issues that caused the breakdown in trust. Don’t hide behind a wall of silence—be upfront about what happened and what measures you’re taking to prevent similar issues from happening in the future. Transparency builds stability, encourages collaboration, and helps foster a sense of security within the organization.
2. Listen carefully
Now’s the time to stop talking and really listen. Tune in carefully when communicating with those affected by your mistake. Being an active listener means empathizing with their feelings, understanding their point of view, being receptive to constructive criticism, and learning from your mistakes instead of repeating them in the future.
Sitting in silence and listening can be challenging, but if you respect the relationship enough to care about repairing it, it’s worth putting in the hard work. Listening carefully helps create an environment where both parties can express themselves honestly without feeling judged or criticized for doing so—and this is essential for any relationship built on mutual respect and understanding going forward.
3. Acknowledge the mistake(s)
Fess up when you mess up. Once you truly understand the error, the next step in rebuilding trust is acknowledging your own mistakes. If you have done something to break someone else’s trust, you must offer an authentic apology and accept responsibility for your actions. This shows that you understand and acknowledge what has happened, which will go a long way toward restoring the broken trust. No one likes admitting when they are wrong. True leaders know that to err is human, and since we are all humans, we will make mistakes—it’s what we do with them that matters.
4. Take action
You also need to take concrete action to demonstrate your commitment to repairing the damage caused by the mistake. For example, if you made an error on a customer’s order, offer them a discount or free shipping as a gesture of goodwill. This shows that you are serious about making things right and want to rebuild your relationship with them. Not sure where to start? Ask—a simple how can I help make this right will get the trust-repair process started.
Effective communication is essential for rebuilding trust after a breakdown occurs. Effective communication is committing to over-communicating early and often. Figure out what you’ll say and communicate those messages regularly with employees, so they feel heard and stay up-to-date on any changes or developments related to the issue. It also helps to ensure that all stakeholders understand their roles and responsibilities when rebuilding trust in the workplace.
Rebuilding trust once broken takes work but is possible if done right. By being transparent about the issues at hand; listening carefully; acknowledging your mistake; taking action; and communicating effectively once there has been progress made towards restoring confidence within an organization—you’ll be well on your way towards repairing damaged relationships both internally and externally that may have been impacted by broken trust in your business’s past. So don’t give up hope—no matter how bad things seem, there’s always light at the end of every tunnel—even in business.
Ingrid Christensen is an entrepreneur, business leader, and advocate passionate about providing equal access to information to everyone, no matter what language they speak. The president and founder of INGCO International, Ingrid, launched the company in 2006 after witnessing firsthand how translation and interpreting services bridge divides and connect people from different cultures. Ingrid is also the author of The Language of Trust: Communicate to Build Meaningful Relationships in Business and Life.