Only Fools Trust Everyone
Don’t trust people who don’t trust you.
Joan’s boss asked her what she thought of their company’s banner product. Joan replied, “I love the value it brings but in many ways it’s outdated.” She offered suggestions on how to improve process, delivery, and application. That was Joan’s mistake.
It seemed the meeting went well. Later, however, Joan was shocked to discover her boss interpreted her comments as disloyalty.
Joan’s boss didn’t trust her commitment to the company. Distrust motivated him to question her motives.
People who trust you tell you what they think.
Thinking back on the conversation, Joan realized her boss hadn’t given any feedback during their meeting. He just nodded and jotted some notes; notes he used against her, later. The people who trust you engage in give and take. They tell you what they think.
When there’s more take than give in conversations, talk less. Ask for feedback. Beware when feedback is vague or nonexistent. Are they gathering ammo or simply thinking things through?
When you’re being evaluated, ask why it matters.
If Joan had known her boss was checking her loyalty, she would have responded differently. Determine the intent of questions before answering. This matters most during job interviews, public meetings, and in distrustful environments.
Taking it back.
The people who trust you let you take things back. When you say, “That’s not what I meant,” they believe you.
The people who don’t trust you use your words as weapons to defend themselves and destroy you. They never let you take it back.
How do you navigate distrustful environments?
Note: Joan is a composite character. The facts have been changed to protect the innocent.
Subscribe to Leadership Freak today. It’s free, practical, and brief. The subscribe button is in the upper right of the home page. I’ll never sell your email address, promise.
You are very correct, think twice before you speak. Normally, straight people suffer most because straight Trees are always chopped first to make slippers.
Quite true. Yet ‘how you speak’ and ‘when to speak or not to speak’ are very important. Compromising on your own level of working or values just to please someone is more dangerous. It can lead to mediocrity and ruin your career. Have a courage to speak and contribute towards the organization growth.
You point out an uncomfortable truth. Those who are candid, forthright, and authentic can have there words used against them.
Personally, I’m only doing business with people I don’t have to protect myself from. If we can’t be candid we can’t work together. LIfe’s too short to play games.
Any candid, forthright, and authentic people have workplace recommendations in California?
Thank you for a though-provoking post.
As leaders, we must not demand trust, but earn it. Trust may be earned by a series of truthful conversations and actions congruent with professed values, including words and actions when no one is watching or when it would be convenient to lie or act inappropriately.
I’ve found that asking peple for feedback in a questionnaire, in a group, or in a face-face conversation as above often results in skewed responses. As you suggest, open and frank communication results from the boss stating what he/she thinks, communicating that he or she may be wrong or have an incomplete view, and asking for feedback while exposing his/her own vulnerability. Trust is built when the boss changes or modifies his/her point of view in light of new information, acts on that information, and gives credit to the person who provided it, publicly if appropriate.
A question to your readers…Imagine you were Joan’s boss, and had come to the realization that you had broken Joan’s trust, had misused the information, and distanced the group. How would you go about restoring trust?
It sounds like Joan’s boss was not looking for trust. He had a vested interest in the sign. He maybe created it, or had the final say on its approval. He was looking for confirmation that his work was as good as he felt it was.
Joan thought he was looking for honest feedback
The only way Joan could have known that is to think slower and not have an opinion anymore. Which would make her no better than most managers I used to deal with.
If I were Joan’s boss and had realized the breach, I would at least apologize. Then, I would ask if I could visit her office, or if we could talk privately in my own office (out of public view). I would try to explain my mistake insofar as it was necessary to her to know. Then, I would ask her how I could better approach similar situations to not come across as judgmental or ungracious. Finally, I would give her true feedback on how valuable her opinion was to me and apologize again.
Here’s the problem with Joan’s boss and so many others who undermine and back stab, they don’t regret it. They love power and manipulation. They serve themselves before others.
I had a conversation with a scholar on this issue. He stated that people who intentionally back stab others have parts of their brains that don’t work like the rest of us.
People like Joan’s boss should be given one chance and then sent to find jobs with the competition. Yes Dorothy, there are ass holes in this world.
You have my best,
Wow. I had a similar experience at my last job. The funny thing was when I left there the owner started to question that manager. Now I work as a manager so it’s my turn to not make that mistake in reverse. It’s important to see criticism for what it is.
My experience indicates you aren’t alone. Every organization has a few self-serving jerks.
It sounds like you’re trying not to be one… 🙂
You have my best,
I understand Joan’s plight. Subordinates are prone to do a lot of talking when in the presence of their Boss. This may be as a result of intimidating circumstances or due to the subordinate’s excitement at being asked for an opinion.
What should be remembered is that there are smart people (like
Joan); and there are wise people (you and I). Wise people are selectively smart.
I think the lesson is listen before speaking. Be sure you’re answering the right question. Perhaps a second is don’t threaten the boss…(sad but sometimes necessary).
Selectively smart…I love that!
I find this comment to be painfully true…you have to be selectively smart or pretend to be stupid in order to progess through structural organisations. Saying less helps and saying more can often put you in the limelight, where you are open to criticism and critique. Thanks..
I agree that only fools can trust everyone. They trust everyone because they do not have base. They also distrust everyone in case of bad experience. Determining the intents of the question before answering is challenging. It is a skill that takes time and experience to learn. Trust factor can be determined from the words people use. I think, navigating through distrustful environment need perseverance, wisdom and authenticity. I think trust is give and take policy. I do accept that we should not trust those who do not trust us. But sometimes to create trust, we need to show trust on others. There are people who try to create environment where everyone trust them but they do not trust others. It means, people create divide and rule policy. They appear in such a way that you tend to think that he is trustworthy. People who try to please everyone cannot be trusted. People who generally whisper are also not trustworthy. I think being trustworthy in the matter of people and climate you are working with. It people do not believe in trust, however trustworthy you are, they will demean and criticize you. Trust blooms and glows where leaders are authentic, transparent and human.
Good interpretation of the post with a powerful concluding statement. It’s a matter of leader’s work-style and the belief in his team members based on actual experience.
Thanks for your comment.
I love this sentence. “But sometimes to create trust, we need to show trust on others.”
Absolutely! People learn to trust by being trusted. Personally, I still err on trusting people until they demonstrate they aren’t trustworthy.
The hard thing is realizing that those who undermine you once will most likely do it again. Give them a second chance but if they cross that line again, move on, give up, or guard yourself closely.
Best to you,
Balance. This word strikes me as important in this conversation. True, you can’t trust everyone. False, you can’t trust anyone. True, some people have a selfish agenda. False, everyone has a selfish agenda. Kelz said it well, we must be “selectively smart”. Be emotionally intelligent and aware of your surroundings both with subordinates and with those in lead in front of you. Ultimately we create a culture of trustworthiness. A transformational culture where knowledge sharing is valued, and input important. But knowing when that input is welcomed is an important leadership trait for survival. Balance; you can’t trust everyone, but don’t be paranoid either (insert smirk here).
Thanks for a shot at balance. My style is to push an idea to the point of being unbalanced. It gives us all a chance to think and talk.
I’m not backing away from the idea that only fools trust everyone. But I embrace the importance, place, and power of trust.
Glad you jumped in,
Hmm….I always agree with you Dan and truly value your content but this is a tough one for me….What about Steve Job’s and his statement?: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma which is living with the results of others people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of this opninions drown out your own inner voice. And, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary”.
Why do we need wisdom? To try not to step on someone’s toes even if we didn’t mean to? To live with the results of other people’s thinking. I need wisdom to grow as a person and to be who I want to be, if others can’t handle that move on! Find people who are authentic and truly value you! Best, ML
So glad to see you here. If you don’t already know, the contrarian is always welcomed here. Heck, if there isn’t some disagreement around here, why are we wasting our time?
You have my respect,
I am a big believer in considering the intent of a question before answering, not only in business but in personal relationships. The thought process of the person asking the question is often more important than the question itself.
Nicely said Rayme! Thanks
Well Done once again, Dan!
This post truly touched base with me. A lot of us are too trusting because we want people to trust us in return, but many times that is not how the situation works.
In response: I handle distrustful situations (and all situations) the same. I am bluntly honest when people ask me to speak and I am almost bluntly honest when not asked to speak. That way, I encourage open sharing and honesty as best as I know how. I know a lot of people disagree with my methodology, but I find closer and better friends MUCH faster by being brutally truthful from the start. This method eliminates the dance between people determining how trustworthy the other person is. You either like my honesty or you don’t; if you do, great! If you don’t, then I assume you are not willing to be equally as honest with me, so you are therefore not trustworthy.
I am still working on the balance between I share too much and I want you to share more.
Love your comment.
You do bring up the issue of how much to share. Honesty doesn’t require we tell all we know…. oooo this is touchie!
I’m with you, say it like it is. It’s possible to be kind, polite, and gentle in tone even when we say tough things.
The issue in this post is still problematic. Your brutal honesty with a boss who uses your words against you will probably hurt your career. Of course the best thing is to find people who value honesty… something I see you believe in..
YOu have my best,
Thank you! instinctively we know this is so but it is also very valuable to be concious about it. I think this can be a good advice. It can save a lot of agony 🙂 If people do not show interest in the answer – don’t give it.
BUT on the other hand – we have to try. Simply because Trust is such a valuable asset! It has to be safe guarded. Trust has a high price and if we lose it we all lose. It is devostating for any organization to lose trust. Big or small – micro or macro. We must be willing to give trust for It is a gift and it can not be earned. What others do with it is their responsability.
Some people ask just to be able to tick in off from a list – “Done that”. Some do it to provoce and some do it because they are genuinly conserned and appreciate what other people think. Some “use” people and some love people. You can smell the aroma. 🙂
But it is up to you if you want to give the gift or not.
Here’s a gem I’m taking from your comment.
“If people do not show interest in the answer – don’t give it.”
Hmm, maybe there should be a flip….
“Verify, but trust.”
The darker side of distrustful environments/reality is that we all have agendas, unhealthy and healthy, covert at times, overt others. Before engaging one’s mouth, know/listen/learn the agenda…and then again, before you do, extrapolate what/how your comments can/will be taken. Can you live with the fallout or can you live with yourself by not ‘sharing’ your impressions. Those impressions are often tied to values, so are they the true values of the organization and the leadership?
To spin the scenario, what a great ’emperor’s new clothing’ moment Joan stumbled upon! Would have been even sadder if she had toiled for years/decades/life and not seen the dude’s duds for with they were. Life is too short… 😉
Thanks for adding your insights to the conversation. I wish we could trust everyone.
It took me long time to realize that sophisticated communicators think more about the way listeners will interpret their comments. Unsophisticated communicators focus too much on what they need to say rather than what others need to hear.
Still, it’s sad but true, that some people just can’t be trusted.
It’s a shame that we have to “navigate” questions and try to decipher the meaning. I don’t understand why people can’t be straight forward with each other. Look at the amount of energy we expel just trying to consider the intent of the question and answer it in a politically correct manner. It’s ridiculous. When did truth and honesty become so undervalued and even reviled? Such sad commentary for our society.
Here is my take: Because people are not honest to them selfes! Then it’s impossible to be honest towards other people.
Who is always honest?
So we can pick out the splinter in other peoples eye but we do not see the beem in our own. To me trust is and will always be a gift I can bestow on other people …. or not.
Yes it is ashame. However, this post was written for people like you.
Thanks for this post. This is very timely for me!
Just a quick question about the comment made by your scholar friend regarding people who back stab. Can you direct me to where I can get more information on his research? I find this very intriguing.
Okay, I get it that some people are distrustful of others. I am in the middle of such a situation with a colleague and being called into my boss’s office every few weeks to answer to the latest set of twisted, misrepresented conversations and/or work situations.
How in the world do you respond to this type of thing? I have a long history of working with my boss but this-coworker really knows how to sell wrong info. I am at the point that no matter what the interactions with them are like, I cannot simply relax and do my job since I never know when and if something will be presented as another attempt by me to sabatoge her work.
I can find another job but honestly, after working at my current place of employment for so long – this is NOT how I wanted to leave.
Here’s a few quick suggestion. Realize they are generic.
Document, document and document more. Keep track of your work and interactions. Distrust makes everything take longer but if you don’t watch your back by documenting your work, you’ll end up screwed.
Be sure your work clearly aligns with the bosses agenda.
Be proactive and feed the bosses regular progress reports.
If you have happy clients, forward their praise of your work to higher ups. Say, I thought you’d like to see the comments of a happy client.
Let others praise you.
Do a search of this site for “tooting your own horn” “office politics” and backstabbers
Find some allies outside your department but never talk bad about others to them. Try finding some internal mentors.
Get support beyond internal mentors.
Never give the person who is undercutting you the benefit of the doubt. Time for that is over.
Engage in some high profile work.
I’m concerned that your long term relationship with your boss isn’t helping. Sometimes weak bosses fear politically savvy employees.
You have my best.
Thought-provoking post. It’s a fine line in a distrustful environment. If you are obviously not trusting what you’re being told, it makes matters even worse. Those who are distrusted don’t tend to like to know that fact. Like Joan, I learned a long time ago that when I’m asked for an opinion, my real opinion is not what’s actually wanted. In those environments, I’ll start with supporting the prevailing opinion and then just offer my help if there are changes being considered. Smile, nod, be helpful. I like the tip about asking intention, and use it often, but it goes back to that fine line.
Wish I read this last week… My conclusion is I’m too straight-forward. To spend so much time deciphering and meandering? I think it’s unprofessional but a very real and apparent challenge of working life. Great read – thanks!