It’s tough when you lose trust in any relationship - because it can seriously damage that relationship - sometimes irreparably. It’s especially tough with a valued employee because not only does it summon up feelings of failure and disappointment, it can have a material impact on your business. 

But, all is not lost - you can win back their trust and turn them into a productive and valued staff member once more. You do however, have to practise forgiveness, restoration and above all, forgetting. It’s tough but not impossible.

Acknowledge trust was lost, rather than battling for who was right or wrong

Even great leaders make mistakes and the first step to making it right is admitting it. You need to go to the person you’ve upset, be honest about the mistakes you made and explain the situation to them. This isn’t about making excuses or trying to shift the blame onto your employee, but rather going through your thought processes with them on a practical and emotional level to better understand where it all went wrong.  

Analyse why you lost the trust

It’s important to figure out how and why you lost your employee’s trust. Don’t be afraid to ask your employee for constructive comments and feedback from them. Communication at this stage is really important and you need to be open with them if you want to rebuild that lost trust.

Managers or owners are sometimes nervous about taking on board feedback from employees but it can really build bridges if you do. Disregarding what they say can deepen the mistrust and even make a relationship un-salvageable. However, if an employee knows you’ll listen and act upon what they say it can rebuild the trust.

Understand why it’s important to gain trust back

Without trust in the workplace between you and your employees it’s very hard to forge a positive working relationship. Trust feeds into your company culture and if there is a lack of it, it will likely turn your culture toxic. Such a negative atmosphere can in turn, reduce productivity and therefore profit, and increase staff turnover. You’ll struggle to retain existing staff and to recruit the best people for your business – word gets around quickly and the top candidates will simply not want to work with you.

Accountability and expectation management

You need to be accountable for your actions if you want to keep trust between you and your staff. We’re all human and we all make mistakes – there’s no shame in admitting when you were wrong and learning from it, it’s the mark of a good leader. But you also need to continue to hold your employees accountable too. Just because trust has been eroded because of something you’ve done doesn’t mean they should get a free pass to behave as they like. If you want to create a mutual atmosphere of trust then accountability and responsibility needs to work both ways. Reward high performers and deal properly with poor performers through regular appraisals and reviews.

In addition, trust can often be lost because employees are unclear as to what is expected of them. Make sure they know what their job is, how to do it and how it fits within the wider company vision. If they don’t and they make a mistake it’s very easy for them to lose trust in you or their manager. Clear expectations will stop that happening and employees will perform better because they know what to do.

Forgetting and moving on

If you’re going to keep bringing up the thing that caused a rupture in trust in the first place every time there is trouble you’re on a hiding to nothing. If you really want to regain your employee’s trust long-term, then you need to forget about what caused them to lose it in the first place and concentrate on the future instead.

Culture economy report