What happens when your trust is broken at work

In my previous blog post, I wrote about the importance of trust in the workplace. I did so because I wanted to explain how challenging it can be to not have trust at work.

In fact, I’m not sure I really expressed how dire the consequences can be if an employee’s trust in their employer is broken. Of course, if an employee breaks their employer’s trust it’s not good either, but that’s not the focus of this article.

As employees we still depend to some extent on our employers for our job security. And as much as I am an advocate for finding your own path, creating happiness at work and not accepting any old job, the fact of the matter is: jobs pay our bills. Which means that sometimes for our day to day, we need to hang on to our jobs. When we have partners, children, or other family members that depend on us, it makes job security even more important.

Bearing that in mind, it’s not always possible for us to up and leave if we’re in an unpleasant situation at work. So imagine if your trust has been broken by a peer, your manager, or worse still: leadership. What do you do? This where I would like to tell my story, as a way to explain how damaging the consequences are.

A personal story about trust

I ended up making my first video, click on the link below to find out more.

The consequences of broken trust

Like I said towards the end of my video, the consequences were the following:

  • I no longer wanted to go back to work, and generally speaking didn’t want to work for a company that wouldn’t look out for me
  • I didn’t want to be around the person who had broken my trust
  • I no longer believed or had confidence that the person would protect me
  • On a larger scale, I questioned whether the company would ever have my back or whether they would always put their own interests first
  • I questioned why I should bother giving anything to the company i.e. my time, resources and abilities since they didn’t seem to be valued
  • I wondered what else I had to do, in order to get the support I was looking for. This was a really desperate feeling, a “what more do I have to sacrifice” which is really unhealthy

Regardless of what this meant for me, on a larger scale I think if anyone experiences the above in the workplace, this is a symptom of a toxic work culture and a company that is not doing well.

Consequences for the employer

Beyond how this impacts the individual, employers should also think long and hard about the consequences of such actions.

  • Not able to retain or attract talent
  • High turnover
  • Sense of distrust throughout the entire company
  • Lack of trust can then turn into toxic work culture and toxic behaviour by other employees
  • Unhealthy competition between employees, where people are trying to one up each other
  • Previous employees leaving negative reviews and spreading negative opinions about the company, in turn affecting recruitment
  • Burnout of current employees and other mental health issues
  • Current employees disengaged and demotivated, therefore not performing at their best
  • Employees afraid to do their jobs or to try anything new, for fear of being questioned or criticized

The list goes on and on… The fact is, as we are building the workplaces of the future, we need to take into consideration all the lessons learned from the past.

With an ever-increasing number of millennials in the workplace (by 2030 they are expected to make up 75% of the American workforce alone), employers need to be able to build an environment they will want to work in. Otherwise as the gig economy grows, and entrepreneurship continues to rise, companies will be hard pressed to attract the talent they need to grow or maintain relevance.

Employers have a responsibility to promote healthy workplaces, but they also have a responsibility to remind every individual within the organization, that their behaviour has an impact on those around them. Help educate managers and leaders on how to lead with empathy, there has never been a better time than now!

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Currently working in marketing and comms in Amsterdam. Passionate about all things digital, writing, dancing, travelling and much more. Mental health blogger and advocate.

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