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How to rebuild employee trust after it’s been broken

Posted by Tasnim Ahmed

May 8, 2020

Although no one wants to be in a situation where their workplace environment has been damaged by broken trust, it’s unfortunately something that happens in even the most buttoned-up businesses.

Distrust can arise among employees if honesty or transparency lag, nobody listens to their problems, they don’t receive constructive feedback, they’re not able to learn new things, a promise is broken, or myriad other situations. Consider a five-step approach to understand how a business can rebuild trust after it’s been broken. 

1. Identify, acknowledge the reason

Identifying the behavior or action that prompted the trust issue is crucial for rebuilding trust. Listen with empathy and acknowledge disappointment, anger or hurt feelings on both sides that are associated with broken trust. Take proactive action to understand the issues that led to the loss of trust in your office. Admitting the problem and letting employees know you’re aware is the first step to restoring your workplace health.

2. Build confidence

Once you’ve noticed the problem, start planning to rebuild trust and a healthier culture. Create a strategy for how you’re going to rectify the situation and develop a process to ensure it won’t happen again. Articulate behaviors that you must display consistently to rebuild trust with the employees. Reassure them that their issues will be resolved soon, and explain exactly how the organizational goals will be executed better in the future.

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3. Create the feedback loop

Employee engagement surveys, feedback from employees, performance reviews or direct conversations with staff members can be useful to determine exactly how your employees want to communicate best. Establishing two-way feedback is essential to fostering trust at work and among your employees, irrespective of the company size or the nature of the issues.

Recovering broken trust among team members requires apologies, reconciliation and an agreement to move on from the situation and trust again. Give and accept feedback —to resolve conflicts smoothly, provide each party with time to explain their perspective without interruption.

4. Empower team members

Create an open-door policy where staff members can communicate with you about their concerns without any fear of judgment or retribution. Empower them to own their responsibilities, and put together proposals that they believe benefit the business. Harness vivid and compelling communications to make personnel trust the fact that management works to create a secure environment.

5. Take specific actions

When you’re working to rebuild broken trust, you can’t be vague about your future goals. Add new values to your organization that can prevent future distrust, like transparency or integrity. Then, communicate to your team about those values, why they are needed, how the staff will use them to rebuild trust, and how they’ll be modeled in your workplace. You may also find success in rebuilding trust through the use of “restorative justice,” in which the group works together to determine the best way forward.

Provide employees with the opportunity to build new skills and more autonomy. Guide your leadership staff on how to overcome unconscious bias and compensate fairly. In addition, always be available to your team members.

You can rebuild trust at work by taking positive actions — make up for what went wrong, and always keep your commitments. Create opportunities for social interaction and bonding outside formal work environments. Be sure to always treat staff members with dignity and respect as you move forward and put the past behind you, while also keeping an eye on the optimism of the future.

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Tasnim Ahmed
Tasnim Ahmed

Tasnim Ahmed is a content writer at Escalon Business Services who enjoys writing on a multitude of subjects that include finops, peopleops, risk management, entrepreneurship, VC and startup culture. Based in Delhi NCR, she previously contributed to ANI, Qatar Tribune, Marhaba, Havas Worldwide, and curated content for top-notch brands in the PR sphere. On weekends, she loves to explore the city on a motorcycle and binge watch new OTT releases with a plateful of piping hot dumplings!

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