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The 10 Top Trust Terminators


Trust is nearly synonymous with leadership. And its big business. We buy books (from the selection of more than 80,000 about the topic on Amazon). We attend seminars. And we work diligently to cultivate it with employees, peers, supervisors, customersheck, everyone we know.  But field research suggests that real and lasting trust may depend less on what we doand more on what we dont do.

What our parents told us growing up is true: years of trustworthy behavior and trust-building efforts can unravel very easilysometimes with just one act.  In fact, employees report that undermining trust is as simple a performing any of these top trust terminators.


Making untrue, inaccurate statements is only the tip of the iceberg. To employees, fibbing by omission (editing out or withholding something) is as bad as lying by commission (intentionally spreading false information). As hard as it may be, candid straight talk is the foundation of trust, relationships and results.

Missing commitments

The very definition of trust is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.Failing to keep promises, meet deadlines, or otherwise deliver upon agreements demonstrates a lack of respect, responsibility and accountability. All of which will quickly terminate trust.

Saying ‘just trust me’

These three little words speak volumes to employees. They say things like, youre not smart enough to understand,’ ‘my time is too valuable to explain to you,or theres something going on here that I dont want you to know about.Its a powerful message that build resentment and disengagementbut not trust.

Speaking badly of others

Gossiping, criticizing and berating people outside of their earshot is frequently confused with a strategy for bonding with others. Its not! But, it is a sure-fire technique to guarantee that everyone else will worry about whats being said behind their backs.

Behaving unpredictably

Little undermines trust and confidence more than incongruence between words and actions. A foolish consistencymay be the hobgoblin of little mindsbut it is also comforting to employees who are confused and unnerved when leaders fail to walk their talk.

Betraying confidences

Loose lips sink (relation)ships. A tasty little secret or juicy bit of personal information shared by a colleague can be a terrible temptation. But discretion and its powerful trust- and loyalty-building effects are even more delicious in the long-run.

Jumping to conclusions and judgements

Most managers―by their very nature―have developed the ability to spot patterns and trendsand this skill frequently contributes to their success.  But what one does with this information can either build or break trust. Placing blame, scapegoating, or criticizing never works as well as (or builds trust like) gathering all of the necessary information and sharing appropriate constructive feedback in private.

Refusing to apologize

Leaders who believe that admitting they were wrong makes them weak are indeed wrongat least about that. Customer service professionals know that when a service failure is acknowledged and corrected, customer satisfaction and confidence are actually greater than if service had be delivered without a problem. This is not to suggest intentionally making mistakesbut when you do, the strength of character to apologize pays the dividend of elevated trust levels.

Making decisions that affect others

Nothing says I dont trust youlike making a unilateral call. Including people in decisions that affect their work is respectful. And since trust is reciprocal, demonstrating the faith and belief in others will lay the foundation for them to do the same with you.

Shaving your beard

According to the Journal of Marketing, men with beards are more credible than those without. (More research is required to determine if women should cultivate facial hair to inspire greater trust as well!)

Trust is the foundation of relationships and a key gear that keeps business running. So, if its true that trust is less about what you do and more about what you dont do then leaders everywhere will want to hang on to their beards and immediately terminate the other behaviors that erode employee trust.

This post originally appeared at


  1. Trust is indeed the foundation of any relationship. Here is what I tell myself: act on my own values. If I become too cautious in order not to terminate trust, I may loose my liberty. Those who know me will always trust me, but those who don’t trust me, whatever I do, they tend to give judgment.

    • Thank you, Dan. And I really appreciate your advice. Your values are a great guide. And while you can’t control how others respond, you are squarely in charge of your own values alignment. Thanks for your insightful contribution… and best of luck to you.


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