In The Hungry Spirit, Charles Handy said, “trust is like glass, once broken, it can never be the same again.”
Does that mean we should disband teams whenever trust is strained or broken? Is there any hope for rebuilding shattered trust?
Recent research suggests that there is reason for hope, but rebuilding trust requires commitment and consistency to overcome past trust violations. In Promises, Lies and Apologies: Is It Possible to Restore Trust?, the work of researchers Maurice E. Schweitzer, John C. Hershey and Eric T. Bradlow demonstrates that trust can strengthen when the trust violator is seen to make behavioral changes.
Instead, the money game experiment revealed that “trust harmed by untrustworthy behavior can be effectively restored when individuals observe a consistent series of trustworthy actions,” the researchers conclude. Also, making a promise to change behavior can help speed up the trust recovery process.
To begin the process of restoring trust, the offender must acknowledge the violation of trust and make a sincere apology. The five key components of an apology:
- A statement of apology (I’m sorry)
- Remorse (I feel badly)
- An offer of restitution (can I make up for it?)
- Self castigation (I was an idiot), and
- A request for forgiveness (can/will you forgive me)
It is only human that trust will be violated from time to time. Strong teams will quickly recognize these occurrences and immediately begin mending breaches. Team leaders need to coach others how to rebuild shattered trust and model trustworthy behavior.
- Why a strong team is greater than the sum of it’s parts
- Three steps for building trust in teams and organizations
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