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Mistrust in the Workplace: Causes, Risks, Solutions, and Prevention

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25 June 2024

In a thriving workplace, trust forms the bedrock of strong team dynamics. It  fosters open communication. It enhances productivity and contributes positively to the organizational culture. However, mistrust can easily creep in. Let's talk about how it starts, how to heal them and prevent it from settling back in.

What Causes Mistrust?

Mistrust can arise from several areas:

  • Poor Communication: Inadequate or misleading communication often sows the seeds of doubt.

  • Inconsistency: Arbitrary policies and favoritism erode the foundation of fairness.

  • Hidden Agendas: Lack of transparency regarding decision-making processes can lead to suspicion.

  • Lack of Integrity: Unreliability, dishonesty, and unethical behaviors directly undermine trust.

  • Poor Leadership: Leadership that lacks empathy and fails to engage or support the team fosters a mistrustful environment.


A great example of this is a manager allowing one employee to bend or break rules, while punishing others. This is probably the quickest and most common way mistrust roots in a business. Bill in accounting leaves an hour early. Everyone notices. They see it happening time and time again. Lucy takes a lunch and is 30 minutes late returning. Lucy gets a visit from her supervisor. Mistrust's roots are setting in deep by now.

What’s at Risk?

Neglecting mistrust in the workplace can lead to:

  • Decreased Productivity: Stress and lack of motivation stemming from mistrust hamper employee productivity.

  • Increased Employee Turnover: Disengagement and dissatisfaction may drive employees to seek opportunities elsewhere.

  • Damaged Relationships: Collaboration suffers when trust is compromised, impacting both internal and client relationships.

  • Stifled Innovation: A mistrustful environment hinders the willingness to share ideas or take risks.

  • Tarnished Company Reputation: The repercussions of mistrust can extend outward, affecting the organization's ability to attract talent and retain clients.

How Do We Fix Trust Issues After They Set In?

Restoring trust requires sincere efforts:

  • Acknowledge the Problem: Recognizing and addressing trust issues is the initial step towards resolution.

  • Improve Communication: Ensuring transparency and regular information flow rebuilds faith in organizational processes.

  • Implement Consistent Policies: Fair and uniform application of policies reinforces trust in management.

  • Promote Transparency: Sharing the reasoning behind decisions eliminates speculation and builds understanding.

  • Invest in Team Building: Activities that encourage collaboration and empathy can mend and strengthen team bonds.

  • Provide Support and Development Opportunities: Demonstrating investment in employees' growth fosters a positive and trusting atmosphere.

  • Seek and Act on Feedback: Encouraging open dialogue and responding to feedback shows that employee input is valued.

How Do We Prevent Mistrust from Creeping In?

Preventing mistrust from embedding itself in the workplace environment is preferable to addressing it after the fact. Here are key preventative measures:

  • Cultivate Open Communication: Foster an environment where transparency and honest communication are the norms. Encouraging team members to share their thoughts and concerns without fear of repercussions builds a strong trust foundation.

  • Establish Clear Expectations: From the outset, make roles, responsibilities, and expectations clear. When everyone understands what's expected of them, it reduces uncertainties and potential for mistrust.

  • Practice Integrity and Consistency: Leaders should model integrity and consistency in their actions and decisions. Consistency in words and actions reassures employees and builds trust over time.

  • Promote Inclusivity and Participation: Involve employees in decision-making processes where appropriate. Feeling valued and included helps to prevent feelings of disenfranchisement and mistrust.

  • Recognize and Reward Fairly: Implement a transparent and fair system for recognition and rewards to eliminate perceptions of favoritism or unfair treatment.

  • Conduct Regular Trainings: Regular training sessions on communication, ethics, and leadership can reinforce the importance of trust and provide tools for maintaining it.

  • Foster Relationship Building: Encourage interactions not just between team members but across different departments. Understanding different roles and challenges promotes empathy and reduces potential for conflict.


Mistrust in the workplace is a complex issue with far-reaching consequences. By recognizing its causes, understanding the risks, actively working on solutions, and implementing preventative measures, organizations can maintain a trustful and healthy working environment. Trust is not just a nice-to-have; it's a must-have for any organization aiming for long-term success. A healthy culture is required. Period. Full Stop.


Resolving this from the inside out can be challenging. The supervisor may be too close. The owner needs to step in. If the owner is responsible for the trust issue, they should bring someone in from the outside to help. A business coach is an excellent tool to help right this trust issue.


If you are dealing with issues like this in your business and you'd like some help, contact me here and let's find out what's going on.




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