Trust is the root of all relationships, and if trust isn’t present then you can’t have a meaningful relationship. In this episode you’ll learn what a breach of trust looks like and how to handle it when it happens. So, get out of your head, into your heart and let’s talk about trust breakers in a relationship.
Hey, it’s Julie and welcome to the Corporate Yogi podcast. Today I want to talk about one of the most important elements of a relationship, building trust. I say this all the time, but if you don’t have trust, you don’t have a relationship. It really is the absolute foundation of all relationships. I have a lot of people try to convince me that they work with someone they don’t trust, but that’s ok, bc it’s just a workplace relationship and there doesn’t need to be a deep relationship like there is with a friend or a partner. But I would disagree with this, I would argue that workplace relationship require just as much trust, if not more trust than a personal relationship would. But somehow there is a belief that it is different or less than, and so we don’t have to invest in building trust in the same way. Not so. I often see things go wrong in 1 of 2 different ways with workplace relationships, either trust isn’t established properly at the start of a relationship, and then the relationship just stays surface level and lacks depth. Or, more dramatically, something happens in the relationship that causes a breach of trust, and the trust is just never restored to previous levels because one or both parties refuse to talk about it.
So here’s a look at what you’re going to learn today:
1) First, I’m going to share an example of what a breach of trust looks like
2) In the 2nd segment I’ll explain the truth about your boss
3) In the 3rd segment I’ll explain how to handle a breach of trust
4) and in the 4th segment, I’ll share a happy outcome from one of my clients
So get out of your head and into your heart and let’s talk about trust.
OK I want to start with a breach of trust story that happened to one of my clients. When he first told me I was gob smacked, and couldn’t it believe it. It’s something we worked on over the course of a few months, and now he has just transcended this entire experience and repaired the breach of trust with his boss. He has given me permission to share the story with you on the podcast, but I’m going to share the story anonymously out of respect to him and his company, which happens to be a very large, well-established technology & media company. Let’s call this client Dan.
Now when I first started working with Dan, he explained that his relationship with his boss was somewhat closed off, and he didn’t particularly want to deepen the relationship or feel comfortable sharing personal details with him. On digging around, he shared his experience and reasoning why. And I have to say, I don’t really blame him for feeling this way. Here’s what happened, Dan basically shared some specifics with his new boss about his old boss, thinking that this conversation was happening in trust and total confidence, bc hey – as most of us know, that is just basic common sense. I think most people would make this assumption. However, Dan’s current boss then proceeded to take this private conversation and share the details with Dan’s old boss to give them feedback and really thought they should know. Then, to complete this circular breach of trust, Dan’s old boss then came to him, and confronted him about what she had said about her and her leadership. Sigh. This was a breach of trust on so many levels, and had such a massive impact on Dan, quite frankly, I don’t blame him for losing faith in his manager. When we have these types of conversations and share details, we often do it in confidence, or under the guise of confidence.
As a result, Dan no longer felt that psychological safety was present in that relationship, and in an effort to protect himself, he stopped opening up and sharing information with his boss. But the story doesn’t really end there. Sometimes in situations like this we think we are protecting ourself, by shutting ourselves off from others, but sadly in the end it is us that really loses. I worried that Dan would not only struggle by carrying resentment for his current boss and previous boss, but I also worried that it would negatively impact his career opportunities, bc he wasn’t able to develop those deep relationships at work. Since the double breech of trust, he really has closed himself off from others and shut down, in the hopes of protecting himself. Now I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but in truth, I see it happen all the time. I’m shocked that more people don’t hold information like this in confidence, and I see that it has a really big impact relationships. And the bottom line here, is that Dan is really left suffering in 2 ways, first bc of the violation of trust and then secondly, bc the relationship has now been ruptured.
At this point, I want to share a fundamental truth, that we don’t always expect or hold space for with workplace relationships. The truth is, your boss is doing the best they can, they’re learning a growing just like you are, and as a result, they’re going to make mistakes.. They may not be more evolved or as mature as you are. Now I share this truth, not as a put down to your boss, and definitely not to take your boss’ side if they violate your trust, absolutely not. I hope that you’re working for an amazing person, but I share this truth, bc sometimes we need a reminder that they are on a learning journey too, and they may be a little further along in their career than you are, but they also may not be further ahead than you in self-awareness, or consciousness. The truth is, they’re going to make mistakes. This is one of the fundamental downfalls of corporate hierarchy, is that it leads us to naturally believe that they person who is more senior than us, is more experienced, knowledgeable and evolved than we are. Sadly, this is not the case in many situations, for a variety of reasons, good and bad. And so, I think it’s best to just manage our expectations and remember that our boss is human, and right along this learning path like we are, and they are going to screw up at times. And this doesn’t just apply to your boss, it goes right up the food chain, trust me. We’re all learning and figuring it out as we go along. And I want to share a few different perspectives about relationships that has helped me dealing with other people making mistakes or disappointing me.
#1 perspective – If we expect others to be perfect all the time and don’t hold space for them to screw up, then we don’t give ourselves permission to ever screw up and make mistakes. If we want compassion to be shown towards us, we have to learn how to show it towards others first.
Perspective #2 – all relationship that have with others, is really just a mirror of relationship that we have with ourselves. Which is a heavy thought, but so true.
And Perspective #3 – no relationship that you have with others can be greater than the relationship that you have with yourself. So brace yourself for a learning journey when it comes to relationships, bc we all have a lot to learn and grow through.
OK so here’s how you handle a breech of trust. Dan and I had many conversations about how to handle this situation. Let me tell you, he did not want to address this, at all. He had swept it under the rug and was quite content in leaving it there. The first and most important step was for him to realize that he was the one suffering through this, more than his boss was. Sure, he may be wondering why she is acting differently or why she isn’t opening up, but at the end of the day, his boss is likely not struggling or suffering through it, bc he didn’t even know what happened.
Dan is the one struggling most, bc he feels like he cannot open up and be his regular authentic self.
It’s like that saying, holding resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person will die. They don’t struggle, but we sure do.
The truth is, unspoken truths are seeds of resentment. If someone wrongs you, you really need to tell them what they’ve done, so they can actually learn from it.
Here are the steps you can follow. First off – understand why you are so upset, and get clear on what they have done and then dig down and see if there’s anything that you have done. You can even script out what you wish had gone differently, or what would have been handled differently. Then the next step is to prepare for the courageous conversation. For most emotionally charged situations like this, we really need to sit down and prepare for the conversation. What are you going to say, how will you say it, what requests will you make, and most importantly, which is your stake in the ground. – which means, what do you want to accomplish with this conversation? Are you looking for an apology? Do you simply want your side of the story to be heard? Do you want to design things to be different next time? Putting a stake in the ground is important, bc let’s face it, these types of conversations are tough, and if you’re going to lean in to feel the discomfort, you want to make sure that you feel a resolution by the end of it.
A couple other tips: make sure you ask permission to have this conversation, so you’re both in a prepared mindset. This sometimes isn’t a great drive-by conversation, you want to have ample time. Don’t start the conversation in the last 3 minutes of your weekly 1:1.
Another tip, is to go in with curiosity, not accusation. Often when we reflect and stew on something, we take certain datapoints and fill in the blanks, like intention, with our own made up stories… and they’re not usually positive. When you have your discussion, bring up the facts of the situation, then inquire through the lens of curiosity, “I’m curious why you handled it this way, I’m curious why you didn’t come and ask me for more information.
And the last tip, use the SBI model for feedback, which is Situation, Behaviour and Impact. This tool was developed by CCL, the Centre for Creative Leadership, and it is a brilliant way of giving feedback. I like it bc if you follow the formula, you’re pretty much guaranteed to not blame, which is essentially like throwing gasoline on a fire. The S – is where we explain the situation, remember last month when I gave you that feedback of what it was like working with my old boss. Then we move to B, and explain the behaviour or action they took. In our Dan example, this would be sharing the confidential conversation with Dan’s old boss without having Dan’s permission. And the I stands for impact, and this is where you can be really honest about what they did and how it made you feel. I feel like me trust has been violated and I feel hesitant to share any further information with you, bc I don’t know what you’re going to hold in confidence and what you’re going to share with others.
So what happened with Dan.
Well we had a number of conversations, then we devised a plan. He would talk to his boss and initiate a courageous conversation and explain what happened and how this impacted him through the SBI framework.
So he did this, and much to his surprise, he healed the relationship and they’re in a really good place right now. His boss had NO idea that what he did was wrong, he had positive intentions and was trying to advocate on Dan’s behalf, but after Dan explained it in full context, he understand the mistake he made and apologized for it. The truth is, we sometimes think that bc our boss is more senior and supposed to know better that we shouldn’t be the ones to initiate these conversations. But remember the truth for today, your boss is doing the best they can, they’re learning and growing just like you are, and as a result, they’re going to make mistakes. I am very proud of Dan for stepping up and having this conversation, and I remember the look on his face when I brought it up, he looked at me as if to say, You want me to do what Julie? Are you absolutely kidding me? And the truth is, sometimes when we are really wronged like that, we use that as an excuse to not step up and be the bigger person, but this is truly, if you think about it, just acting like a victim, and this is an example of a situation where we need to be the bigger person. And since having this conversation, there have been some other challenges with team members, that Dan and his boss have been able to sort out quickly and easily and I can say with confidence, I’m sure they’re both grateful they had this conversation and repaired this breech of trust.
OK it’s time to wrap up this episode on trust breakers in a relationship. I dropped a lot of wisdom bombs in this episode but the most important one I want you to take away is, if you don’t have trust, you don’t have a relationship.
If this episode really rung true with you I want to leave you with a couple additional resources. First off is a trust model exercise that can be used to accelerate trust in your team. If you want to learn more about it, head back to episode 186 to find out how the trust exercise works, and how to apply it to your team.
The other critical resource to building trust is a tool I developed called Relationship Design, which is explained in episode 198. This is designed to be done with a colleague or direct report at the start of your relationship, but in truth – it can be adapted to any relationship. So if you want to deep dive further into trust and relationships check out both those episodes: 186 and 198!
Thanks for tuning in today. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with someone who really needs to hear it. Let’s face it, I guarantee there’s someone in your life who is struggling with a breach of trust, and they need your tough love wake up call, so this episode a great conversation starter.
I look forward to seeing you next Tuesday for another great episode and remember, that any fear or resistance you hold deep inside of you, is simply your greatness in disguise.