5 Steps Toward Repairing Workplace Trust Once It’s Broken

Trust is everything in an organization. If it’s lost, here’s how to restore it.
group of employees with two of them shaking hands

The foundation of an organization’s culture is trust. Culture tells customers, candidates, and employees what to expect. It takes a lot to build trust. 
Unfortunately, there are times when trust is broken. Often, this happens when the organization says or does things that might be considered contrary to its culture. When this occurs, we can’t simply ignore it or wish it would fix itself. When trust is compromised, we must take steps to repair the situation. 
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Great Place To Work For All Summit™. During one of the conference sessions, representatives from an organization very bravely shared five steps they took to repair trust within their organization. I’ve summarized those steps below.  

  1. Admit mistakes. I’m sure we know plenty of organizations that refuse to admit when they’ve made a mistake. They might even spin the narrative to make it sound like the mistake was actually a calculated decision. In today’s business world, authentic and transparent reactions can yield positive outcomes. Make a mistake? Own it. 

  1. Reverse roles. Give individuals the opportunity to walk in another person’s shoes. When employees ask, “Why does [INSERT NAME OF PERSON] always have to do this?” or “Why does the process have to be this way?”, share the rationale behind a decision. Showing your work can be a great way to gain understanding and buy-in  

  1. Solicit feedback at all levels. I’d like to think that every organization has feedback mechanisms in place. However, organizations might need to consider a blend of anonymous and non-anonymous formats. It might take accepting and acting upon some anonymous feedback to rebuild trust back to the level where non-anonymous feedback is acceptable and embraced.  
  1. Listen and fix the problem. Speaking of feedback, one of the worst things an organization can do is ask for feedback and not do anything with it. In fact, when it comes to trust, that could be a major reason for the breakdown. If organizations are serious about repairing trust, they need to act. And if they’re not prepared to act right away, it could be valuable to explain why (see #2 above).  

  1. Hold people accountable. The most important step an individual or organization can take when repairing trust is holding themselves and their teams accountable for all the previous actions. Take steps that align with the organizational culture, so the trust breakdown doesn’t happen again. 


I want to believe that individuals and organizations don’t intentionally try to deceive others. Sadly, we know that’s not always true. That being said, there are times when trust is broken unintentionally. During those moments, it’s important to give others the opportunity to regain our trust and build a stronger working relationship. 
To learn more practical ways to build trust in the workplace, register for the UKG HR & Payroll eSymposium on June 12.