Amy Frost, MBA, MA in Spiritual PsychologyCoach, Life Manager, Triage Specialist, Keynote Speaker, Trainer

Coach, Life Manager, Triage Specialist, Keynote Speaker, Trainer

Trust at Work and in Your Life
Amy Lynn Frost, MBA and MA Psychology

"Be loyal to those who trust you and you are certain to never have a bad end." Socrates

I have been doing a lot of questioning about trust. What I have discovered working with individuals and groups is that I must first create relationships, create trust and then we can do whatever work is needed. I asked for input and I was overwhelmed with the number of people who responded. It appears most of us are questioning the part that trust plays in our lives, our work and our relationships.


I was quite surprised at the number of synonyms people used to define trust - confidence, faith, truth, integrity, hope, honesty, loyalty, sincerity, certainty, assurance, knowing, belief, strength of character, competence, etc. I surmised that how people define trust is derived from expectations they have, both of themselves and of others. Those who can be trusted are those who meet our expectations and, conversely, those who don’t, can’t be trusted.

Especially since the words used to describe trust in oneself did not differ from those used to describe trust in others, it seemed trust was understood as the outcome of people following the Golden Rule, "Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You." Also, practice of the Golden Rule was understood to forge a bond- called trust - that enjoins people. This bond seems analogous to, and no less significant than, any bonding agent (e.g. glue) that holds together inanimate objects and maintains their integrity. We deduced from this that trust was the essential bond - one to oneself and to another - that holds the integrity and reveals the truth of who one is, alone and in relationship. Whether by reputation, observation, promise or duty, it seems people evoke trust when they are true to themselves and to others. Peter Block in Stewardship says, "Trust comes out of the experience of pursuing what is true. What is true lies within each of us." Webster’s dictionary seems also to confirm these interpretations. First appearing in the 13th century, trust was an Old English derivation of TRUE.

Drs. Dennis & Michelle Reina in their book, Trust & Betrayal In The Workplace; Building Effective Relationships In Your Organization, claim that trust is necessary for the very survival of organizations in a global economy. They have conducted pioneering research in 67 different organizations and 19 different industries to develop a model and common language to understand and build trust in the workplace. They outlined four different aspects of trust, called "The Four C’s of Trust."

· Capacity for Trust – Readiness to Trust
· Contractual Trust – Trust of Character
· Communication Trust – Trust of Disclosure
· Competence Trust – Trust of Capability


I was working with a group who had had it with not being heard. From several indicators (surveys and in discussion) it was clear that there was trust alright – trust that dialog was useless and they would be blown-off. We knew we had to toss the past out and start anew to make a foundation for trust. I asked them to help us to start fresh by trusting us and themselves that this time could be different and that they could be an effective part of changes that needed to happen. It was up to management where they took it from there. Only 10% of this large group of workers had said that they would be in this position next year due to the working conditions so what did we and they have to lose? I became the channel for positive trust between management and the workforce. Based on this trust, they created several task teams, appointed leaders and set up action plans. Will management support them? We will see.

I recently facilitated a strategy planning meeting for a group I led. They have complete trust in me due to my past actions and our relationships. Because of this trust, we were able to do several months worth of work in hours, having great fun while dealing with some potentially upsetting issues without disruption.


I see trust as a continuum. On the far left, is NO TRUST. At this place
is: fear, self preservation, unwillingness to act, apathy, refusal to take risks and a refusal to give your best. On the far right, is TOTAL TRUST. At this place is: confidence, teamwork, total commitment, willingness to act, willingness to take risks, and you give your best effort.

As the Reina's suggest, trust is going to vary along four dimensions. In addition, it will also vary depending upon the situation. We don't expect people, nor is it realistic to expect them to meet our expectations in all circumstances and under all conditions. We don't trust someone to perform some task we know they are not prepared to perform. When we have no expectations, trust is not violated when they don't perform. Also, we may assume others value the expression of certain virtues and are surprised to discover that the value systems between different groups vary widely. Those people who are members of a group may see consistency in values among the group, yet someone outside the group may see values different from their own. Think of the differing value systems in families, the mob, the military, a university, a hospital, a financial institution, a church, etc. and how this affects our expectations of behavior, and therefore our ability to trust.


The agony of betrayal involves the sudden tearing of the delicate fabric of trust that has united us. John Amodeo

I defined trust as a function of perception based upon the extent to which people’s expectations of themselves and others are met. While people used many synonyms to define trust, most used only one word – betrayal – to describe the destruction of trust. When people’s expectations of themselves and others are not met, they feel betrayed, and the bond forged by trust is torn asunder. Unfortunately, many have experienced the searing pain of a bond broken by a single act of betrayal, even after years of cultivation. This leads us to regard trust as precious yet fragile, and to look closely at betrayal with a view toward compassionate prevention.

While many psychologists believe that a child is born trusting, Erik Erikson suggests that a child’s natural predisposition to trust must be affirmed by a safe environment during the first three years of life. If not, the child’s capacity to trust and bond with others is severely compromised resulting in profound difficulties developing and maintaining relationships. If the structural integrity of the child is impaired, the behavior of the adult will be fraught with problems related to deficiencies of integrity. Sadly, the young child who is not taught that the world is a safe place is more likely as an adult to betray.

The Trust Triangle (Cooper and Dudley)

Self trust (Inner Trust) -- Knowing your values and beliefs, owning your intentions, living form inner integrity, this all provides a solid base for trusting others. Are you betraying yourself by not living to your own values and beliefs or by putting yourself in unsafe situations?

Trustworthy (Worthy of Trust) -- Being worthy of others’ belief in you, living from honest, caring and integrity, following through on commitments and promises. Only trustworthiness will produce trust. Are you being a person worthy of the trust of others? Do you betray others?

Trusting (Trust Others) -- Seeing the world basically as a "safe-friendly place", believing others will fulfill your expectations, trusting builds motivation and empowerment. Do you trust others? If not, why not? And, what do you need to do to come from a place of trust?

The pain of betrayal is understood when we realize that betrayal threatens the integrity of our being. Expressions such as, "I feel like I’m coming apart at the seams" or "my heart feels like it has a hole in it" are apt metaphors after one has been betrayed. The wound of betrayal is more serious to the extent that it violates our most deeply or closely held beliefs about ourselves, others or the world. Serious betrayal shakes our foundation and exposes our vulnerability causing us to question the unquestionable and challenge our notions of truth. We not only doubt the assumptions that bonded our relationship, but we doubt ourselves for being bound by those assumptions as, alas, what seemed true has been proved untrue.

Thankfully, the Reinas suggest most betrayal is not intentional, but rather unintentional. By way of explanation, they say intentional betrayal is relatively uncommon and is considered "a self-serving action that results in people being hurt, damaged or harmed." Conversely, unintentional betrayal is more common and is "the by-product of another person’s self-serving action that results in people being hurt, damaged or harmed." Sometimes people are so self-absorbed they ignore the impact of their behavior upon others. Often these unintentional betrayals are products of overworked, stressed-out employees trying to do more with less.

Although most betrayal can be attributed to insensitivity instead of ill-intent, there seems to be common agreement that the following are indications of betrayal:
· Lying
· Stealing
· Not keeping promises and commitments
· Deceit
· Cheating
· Defaming the reputation of another
· Not owning up to errors of omission or commission
· Incongruence between words and actions

What is your definition of betrayal? What would people you work with and relate to consider betrayal? Are you betraying unconscious?

It seems that we hold higher standards for trust at home than in the workplace. At work we seem almost resigned to what would be considered unacceptable transgressions of trust at home. Business policy that condones and even rewards employees for subtle forms of abuse, from working long hours to ignoring discrimination, supports the many and too frequent forms of betrayal.

An example of betrayal occurred when a client complained to a manager that Sue, their assigned employee, did not fit into their culture. Sue had opened the door to the client and had done a significant amount of work for this company. Rather than inform the employee of the client’s concerns and give the employee and client an opportunity to discuss and resolve their differences, the manager just yanked the employee from the assignment. Sue felt betrayed not only by the client but by her colleague. When she asked the manager how he could have behaved with such insensitivity, he responded with irritation and berated her for not recognizing that his actions were simply a prudent business decision to provide good customer service. Something is wrong when good customer service is paid for by the betrayal of employees.


You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don't trust enough. Frank Crane

Most of us believe trust is a quality that can be built. We recall experiences when pleasantly surprised by an unexpected act of integrity from someone whose integrity we may have doubted - perhaps for no good reason - just an initial impression. By a single act of integrity our impression is changed, and to the relationship is added the dimension of trust.

With most relationships, time allows for the discovery of knowing others. Through time we learn what we can and can’t expect of them. We depend upon the consistency of these qualities and develop expectations correspond to the predictability of these qualities. Expectations that are repeatedly proved true build trust.

In his book "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", Stephen Covey illuminates the self-fulfilling quality of expectation. He describes how others are more likely to act in a trustworthy manner when we expect them to be trustworthy, and confirm these expectations by our actions. Therefore, aspirations toward our highest virtues are called forth by the positive expectations of others. Trust begets trust, and trust feels good.

As good as trust feels, betrayal feels bad. In the last issue, we discussed how trust, built over many years can be destroyed in a single act of betrayal. It is truly tragic when the fabric of trust is ripped apart, never to be woven together again. Yet, sometimes this outcome is in the best interests of all concerned. Regardless of the outcome of the relationship, the painstaking work of healing from betrayal is like reweaving the threads of torn fabric. Healing work involves not only rebuilding trust with another, but with oneself as well. Often when another betrays us, we have first betrayed ourselves first by ignoring or denying the signs leading to eventual transgression. In fact, the work of healing does not begin until we no longer blame the other, but instead take responsibility, no matter how reprehensible the others’ behavior.

Healing from Betrayal

The Reina’s in their book " Trust & Betrayal in the Workplace" define seven steps for healing from betrayal:

1. Observe and acknowledge what has happened
2. Allow your feelings to surface
3. Get support
4. Reframe the experience
5. Take Responsibility
6. Forgive yourself and others
7. Let go and move on

Dr. Roger Desmarais in "Corporate Portrait" observed the power of forgiveness in a corporate setting.

"The magic of confessing to peers those behaviors and actions that kept peers from team intimacy, was matched only the magic of the forgiveness of peers to each other of those behaviors and actions that separated peers in the past. As each proclaimed his failures and asked for forgiveness, each experienced is own resurrection and in turn granted forgiveness. Every peer perceived the change, and the metamorphosis was complete. The members of the team were bonded with a bond that would always remain regardless of team evolution. The chemistry was established, the team would create together and the company would never be the same, ever."

When healing is complete, one comes closer to knowing oneself as well as the other. Not only do we better discern the boundaries of trust, but we open our hearts in compassion to the human foibles of living. And, as we plumb the depths of our own humanity, we come nearer to touching the divinity within, and amongst us all.

Rebuilding Trust:

You can strongly increase the odds of "recovery" when you take responsibility for your actions. Be willing to apologize. A sincere apology can bring people closer together. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate what happened. By admitting when you violated a trust, apologizing, making a commitment to change based on what you learned, and then doing IT you can rebuild trust.

Building Trust

As the old adage goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". From the work of Cooper and Dudley, here are Ten Steps to Building Trust.


1. Clarify your own intentions. Ask what outcome do I want? Am I seeing the bigger picture? Do I have a viewing point versus a point of view?
2. Listen to your thoughts. Thoughts link intentions with your feelings and actions.
3. Trust your inner intelligence and wisdom. That "voice" will be calm and sincere.


4. Get to know people as people. Be respectful and seek the best. Often what you expect is what you get.
5. Communicate openly. Share information and dare to speak your truth
6. Seek first to understand. Spend more time asking and listening than talking


7. Achieve results. Follow through on promises and fulfill commitments
8. Act with integrity, Be consistent. Live your values and ethics.
9. Demonstrate concern. Be respectful of the well being of others. Seek to understand their needs.


10. Help get out assumptions, identify commonalties, reach consensus on common goals and make commitments with a constancy of purpose. Create an environment where everyone can speak their truth, share information and take action.

Why heal betrayal? Why rebuild trust? Why build trust in the first place? As opposed to the energy depletion of betrayal, the energy of trust can be transformative. Transformative trust occurs when the energy of trust becomes self-generating and synergistic and often leads to healthy relationships and organizations. So, the real question is: "How can you not care about trust?