Article: The roadmap to build sustainable trust

Life @ Work

The roadmap to build sustainable trust

Can trust be rebuilt at workplace once it's broken? What are the characteristics of long-lasting trust at workplace? Read on to find out.
The roadmap to build sustainable trust

“Taking the time to build and maintain trust in the workplace allows employees to focus energies on what they are there to do and want to do.”

Dennis S. Reina and Michelle L. Reina 

Trust defines authentic leadership. This virtue is the determinant of leadership effectiveness and healthy relationships in the workplace – both between peers and managers & subordinates. Employees who trust their managers and the organization’s leaders, stay engaged and this positivity often reflects in their performance. In the absence of trust, employees also end up losing interest in taking risks, being creative and collaborating. Trust often gets broken and requires rebuilding. Here is a path to building sustainable trust

Transactional Trust

Dennis Reina and Michelle Reina, the creators of ‘The Reina Trust & Betrayal Model’ argue that once a workplace has trust, employees can then focus their energies on the work they are supposed to do – without worrying about things they should not be worried about. Dennis and Michelle Reina call trust transactional because “it is an exchange and it provides a foundation for effective relationships and work results.” 

According to The Reina Trust & Betrayal Model, transactional trust is of three types – 

Contractual Trust

This means a trust of character between each other – where people do what they said they would do. This is synonymous to integrity and honesty. The model cites the following behaviors which build contractual trust:

  • Manage expectations

  • Establish boundaries

  • Delegate appropriately

  • Encourage mutually-serving intentions

  • Keep agreements

  • Be consistent 

Communication Trust

This implies a trust of disclosure between each other. Sharing information that someone has told you in confidence breaches the trust. Communication and trust feed into each other. The following behaviors build communication trust:

  • Share information

  • Tell the truth

  • Admit mistakes

  • Give and receive constructive feedback

  • Maintain confidentiality

  • Speak with good purpose

 Competence Trust

This is the trust in your colleague’s ability and competency. “Those responsible for implementing change need to be involved in designing the change,” said Dennis and Michelle Reina. This reflects the leaders’ trust in the former’s ability to contribute to the organization, giving them the freedom to implement that change is another marker of Competence Trust.

Following behaviors highlight this trust:

  • Acknowledging people’s skills and abilities

  • Allow people to make decisions

  • Involve others and seek their input
  • Help people learn skills 

According to the model, these 16 behaviors build transactional trust. The researchers argue that these behaviors “lay the foundation for effective relationships, trustworthy leadership, and strategic performance.”

You are not responsible for what was done to you, but you are responsible for how you choose to respond.

To err is human. Not every member of the workforce can exhibit all these 16 behaviors at all times in the workplace. There are moments when misunderstandings happen and trust is broken. ‘The Reina Trust and Betrayal Model’ also lays down the path to rebuilding trust when it is broken. 

The path to sustainable trust | Seven steps for healing

The Reina Trust & Betrayal Model defines betrayal as a “breach of trust or the perception of a breach of trust.” The model argues that trust is breached on a continuum from major to minor and it can be either intentional or unintentional. Major betrayals occur suddenly more often than not, while minor betrayals happen in subtle ways every day at the workplace and pile up to damage relationships. A falsified belief is that trust is rebuilt on its own when it isn’t clearly the case. Concerted efforts can rebuild the lost trust, otherwise, the minor betrayals (which happen every day) keep adding on to the lost trust. 

The model has enlisted and explained the seven steps for healing:

Step 1: Observe and acknowledge what has happened

This implies circling in on the reasons that led to the breach of trust or the perception of a breach of trust. Acknowledge the loss that has taken place – it could be the loss of a raise, a change in role or a transfer. 

Step 2: Allow feelings to surface

Give room for feelings to surface, hear them and understand them. Betrayal sparks different emotions in people – anger, sorrow, disappointment, despair, helplessness etc. Express your emotions and then you can work through them. 

Step 3: Get support

Support from others with a higher emotional intelligence can help you better understand what exactly happened, your emotional reaction to the breach of trust and explore the different ways to respond to the betrayal. 

Step 4: Reframe the experience

Reframe the experience to see the bigger picture – why something was done. A rejection of the proposal, a change in the team, a reporting structure alteration – these occurrences could be betrayals, but they stem from the business need. Generate an understanding, speak to co-workers to find out how they are dealing with it – this helps in healing. 

Step 5: Take responsibility

There are some actions taken by the organization in which you have no role, but some events happen in response to your own actions. Acknowledge and take responsibility for your actions. “You are not responsible for what was done to you, but you are responsible for how you choose to respond,” said Dennis and Michelle Reina. 

Step 6: Forgive yourself and others

You are not excusing or discrediting the mistake or offensive behavior which broke your trust. But this step means that after you have acknowledged, expressed emotions and observed how the betrayal has affected you, you decide to “release yourself from the burden of carrying those emotions.”

Step 7: Let go and move on

Put this experience behind you. Take the lesson, learn from it and then let go and move on.  

From Transactional to Transformative Trust

A regular and consistent practice of Transactional Trust behaviors in the workplace leads to an exponential increase in trust in each other. This makes trust “self-generating and synergistic.” This phenomenon is what has been labeled Transformative Trust by Dennis and Michelle Reina. Something that organizations must strive to achieve

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Topics: Life @ Work, Employee Relations

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