“I don’t trust my boss”

I Don't Trust My BossDo you trust your boss?  More importantly, should you trust your boss?  And if you are the boss, do your people trust you?  What can you do?  All good questions that we will be tackling this month as we take on an all-too-common (and very dangerous) dysfunction – “I don’t trust my boss.”  So why does this matter?  Research has shown that in environments where trust is high – particularly with one’s boss, there is a strong correlation with high performance.  In addition, research has also shown that when trust is low at work, the toll taken on not only our performance, but our mental and emotional well-being is equally high.  And frankly, who wants to work in an environment where they believe they have to watch their back… particularly when the boss is around?

This month, we will tackle this dysfunction: “I don’t trust my boss.”  Throughout the month we’ll cover, amongst other things:

  • Should I trust my boss?
  • What are reasons why I may not trust my boss? … And could it be me?
  • If I am the boss, what can I do to build trust with my team?
  • If I don’t trust my boss, what can I do?

Every Monday, I’ll kick off our conversation for the week by addressing one of these big questions.  Throughout the week I’ll collect and share stories, examples and other opinions as we dig in.  By the end of the month, if we haven’t cured this dysfunction, we’ll do a darn good job treating it!

So, write to me with your stories, examples or opinions on the subject.  I promise to protect the innocent (and guilty!).

And off we go!

A note from Brandon
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6 replies
  1. Andrew brumsey says:

    I been working for Tom thumb almost two years. The lSt seven mounts ibeen getting low hours one day last week I was really sick it was my day off and he called but I was so sick I could not answer he told me that was irresponsible because I did not answer in that he only give me eight hours for the next week. Then notice I was upset and said what you want to quite.

  2. Brandon Smith says:

    Ugh… That does not sound like a good scenario at all. Assuming you want to stay, it sounds like you might want to have a one-on-one conversation with “Tom.” If you go down that path, here are a few tips to try and build trust with him:

    1. Apologize for any misunderstandings – even though you don’t want to, it will likely lower his guard and soften him up.
    2. Tell him what you need – if you need more hours, ask for it.
    3. Ask what he needs – ask wht you can do for him so you can get more hours and earn his trust

    One final point, avoid getting defensive or emotional. If he does or says something that ticks you off, just end the conversation. Adding fuel to the fire could only make it worse.

    Let me know if I can help in any other way!


  3. Liz says:

    Hi Brandon,

    I hope it’s not too late to discuss this topic! I started at a pretty well-known non-profit at the beginning of 2011. The company (also a non-profit) and department I worked in previously was pretty toxic, which is why I sought out a new job. I know that I have trust issues based on my previous work experience.

    So far, my boss at the new job has been very complimentary and supportive. There’s no reason not to like her. But, I’ve discovered that occasionally she’ll tell me one thing (what I want to hear), but then turn around and tell another something else (what they want to hear, but not necessarily supportive of my work). I know that a large part of her job is making sure that the people at our organization are happy. And I don’t want this to effect -what has so far been – a good working relationship. But it does leave me questioning whether or not I can really trust her.

    What do you think?

  4. Brandon Smith says:

    I completely hear ya. Always a tricky situation to be in… particularly if you are sensitive to any inconsistencies. In general, I would recommend looking closely at what your manager “does” vs. what he / she “says.” Actions speak louder than words so watch your manager’s behaviors. If those appear to be counter to what you want / need, then it’s time to make some decisions.

    I’m happy to help further. Just click on the “Ask the Therapist” link on the home page and send me an e-mail. We can always set up a time to chat!


  5. Norah says:

    Hi Brandon,

    I work in a mostly-administrative type of role in Health Care and have been in the role 4 months. I’ve checked-in with my boss 2 times formally in the past 4 months and got generally good feedback that I was “on track” and to keep “doing what I’m doing”. We were due for another check-in next week but my boss, and co-worker that is part of our team (of 3: her, my boss and myself) called a meeting for first thing Friday morning (invite sent after-hours on Thursday night). The meeting was advertised as one to discuss current documents we were developing but in fact was a surprise performance review where they were critical of much of my work and stated we would meet again next week and a letter would go on my file. I’m blessed to have worked 10 years in various area of healthcare, and this is the first time such a surprise has come to me. I’m considering trying to involve HR in next week’s meeting – as well as my boss’s boss (as in fact it was he who hired me into the role, and not my immediate boss) and am wondering if you have any recommendations on how to manage the situation.

    Sincere thanks!

  6. Brandon Smith says:

    Before you bring in the reinforcements, I would encourage you to clarify with your boss:

    1. What are the specific things that he / she want to see you improve and what would success look like for each of those
    2. How do they plan on providing you feedback going forward so you know where you stand

    I want to give them the benefit of the doubt that they were largely operating as a poor manager (not giving you accurate and timely feedback, not coaching you, etc…) rather than jump to a “back stabbing” conclusion. However, if you can’t get them to be specific, on what you need to improve or change, then I would be concerned that they are setting you up to be let go. In which case do involve H.R. At that point, you’ll be able to say to H.R., “I asked what he / she wanted me to improve but they weren’t able to tell me. Without specifics, I’m concerned I won’t be able to improve and / or they will be able to justify letting me unfairly.”

    Good luck, hang in there and keep me posted!


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