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The 10 Best Ways To Destroy Trust In Your Team Once And For All

Written by: Natasja Hoex, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


When people ask us if we are honest we almost immediately say “Yes I am.” Without even hesitation, we declare ourselves trustworthy. We know why we do things and even when our behavior is not always completely charming, we have a good explanation for why we were not our best selves.

man and woman in mask holding knives on their back

So when something goes wrong and our expectations of trust are not met, it must be the other people, right? Who cheat, betray and lie. Whose intentions are meant to do harm and whose actions betray our trust. It must be the other team members who cause a team to spiral down towards mistrust, right?

How does that work? What do those people actually do, that have such a bad effect on trust? And what can we do, when we find ourselves in a mistrusting team? Let’s start by looking at the actions that destroy trust.

What are the 10 best ways to destroy trust in your team once and for all? Spoiler alert, you probably already know these 10 strategies. You probably have been the victim of some of these ways. And honestly, even while you consider yourself trustworthy, if you look closer, you probably have executed all of these 10 actions yourself one day or another.

The 10 Best Ways To Destroy Trust

  1. Talk behind other people’s back

  2. Gossip about other people

  3. Break your promises

  4. Exhibit other behavior than your words

  5. Deliberately seek opportunities to spread doubt. Criticize everything

  6. Beat around the bush

  7. Throw someone “under the bus”

  8. Refuse to take accountability (for anything)

  9. Blame other people for your own troubles

  10. Cheat and Betray

But there is a Big No 11 that is basically the underlying fundament of distrust. “Half-truths,” “White lies,” “Deception,” “Spinning the message,” “Dishonesty,” and “Exaggeration.” It seems anything that has to do with not telling the truth is the big winner. So in other words: Lying.

I Wasn’t Me…

When two children fight and the parent asks who started it, what do they do? Exactly! They point their finger at each other right away. “I did not do it. He did.” What do adults do in the same situation? Exactly the same. Although we do not consider ourselves liars, we each tell about 1.65 lies a day. And in a lot of these lying situations we don’t even know ourselves, we are lying.

How Does That Work In Our Brains?

Theodor Schaarschmidt writes in his article ‘The art of Lying’

“Lying is a major component of the human behavioral repertoire; without it, we would have a hard time coping. When people speak the truth all the time—as can happen when Parkinson’s disease or certain injuries to the brain’s frontal lobe disrupt people’s ability to lie—they tend to be judged tactless and hurtful. In everyday life, we tell little white lies all the time, if only out of politeness: Your homemade pie is awesome (it’s awful). No, Grandma, you’re not interrupting anything (she is). A little bit of pretense seems to smooth out human relationships without doing lasting harm. (the art of lying)"

German philosopher Bettina Stangneth argues in her 2017 book Deciphering Lies that people lie because it can enable them to conceal themselves. It helps them to hide and withdraw from people who intrude on their comfort zone. As we look at teams who work together in stressful situations, intruding on other people’s comfort zone happens all the time.

So Why Do People Lie?

Most people usually tell the truth, but it may be helpful to try to understand the motivations behind why someone lies.

  1. The lie does them. They might think it is important to convince you of something, or they lie because they are afraid to lose something.

  2. Telling the truth feels like giving up control. The truth can be “inconvenient” because it might not conform to their narrative.

  3. They don’t want to disappoint you.

  4. It’s not a lie to them. Our memory of things is actually quite unreliable

  5. They want it to be true. Sometimes liars hope that they can make something come true by saying it over and over, and by believing it as hard as they can. Read more in this article

So What To Do In A Team That Has Lost The Power Of Trust?

As frustrating as it is when people behave in “the 10 best ways to destroy trust”, exposing them and embarrassing them, will not help very much in gaining more trust. What we can do is begin to understand the motivations behind the strange behaviors. Asking the person, “Why is this situation so important to you?” or, “Why do you need me to see this the same way you do?” can be a useful, non-threatening way to get at the foundations of a new connection.

Helping people to drop their masks is an enormous step towards more honesty. Helping them relax the strategies they use to “keep up appearances”, will eventually help to settle all kinds of tensions. Tensions inside of people and tensions between people. If you are able to listen with a non-judgemental ear, you create space in which people can drop their survival mechanism, which includes lying. And that restores and builds trust like no method. Becoming real and honest with each other, also about your own dishonesties, insecurities, and missteps is amazingly powerful. And then? How do you keep the power of trust? Easy. Do the opposite of everything in the 10 best ways listed above. It’s just that simple!

Need some help with that in your team? Find me at The Teamcoach.

Follow me on LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Natasja Hoex, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Natasja Hoex is a leader in groupdynamics and CEO of De Teamcoach. A company that coached more than 100 Teams in several countries in Europe. She works with management and executive teams that are stuck. Teams who lost the power of trust. Teams in a crisis. Natasja is a psychologist, specialized in group dynamics, in particular the more difficult forms of group dynamics, such as conflicts, misalignment and passivity. She guides teams that have to deal with servere trust issues to more stable waters. Her mission is to help dismantle causes of mistrust and to enhance the power of trust in the world.



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