#062: Five Easy Ways to Make Your Employees Distrust You

What do you think? Is a business liable to be more efficient and produce better results if employees distrust management? How about if management distrusts employees? Well, how about if employees distrust each other?

Pinnochio, Liar, Distrust

Trust (or distrust) seems to be a pretty hot topic in business. I did a quick Amazon search and came up with over 83,000 books that deal with the topic of trust. Narrowing the search to “business + trust” still yielded over 21,000 selections. Books on trust are hot!

Then I decided to Google “business seminars on employee trust” and got an incredible 2.2 million hits. Now I am sure there are a lot of duplicates in this world-wide search, but still, it seems like a lot of people are making a living doing seminars for businesses on employee trust.

If trust is all that important I thought it would be helpful to take a look at some of the most common things management can do to break trust with employees. To be sure this is just a partial list, but here are my top five things management can do to get employees to distrust them. These five are tops in my list simply because I’ve experienced them all, in both the secular marketplace and in Christian organizations.


If the children’s rhyme, “liar, liar pants on fire,” were true there would be a bunch of managers running around with pants on fire. Anytime an employee catches a manager in a lie, or even a half truth, trust is broken.

Proverbs 17:4 says that a liar pays attention to those who are malicious: “A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue.” That is definitely not what a Christian leader should be.

Furthermore, the Scripture says in Proverbs 14:5, “A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies.” As a Christian leader in the marketplace you want your witness to be truth not falsehood.

Don’t Honor Commitments

Not honoring your commitments is a close cousin to lying. Imagine you make a commitment and the situation changes, and you cannot honor your commitment. Do you think the employee cares about the situation, or do you think they will be injured by the broken promise?

Proverbs 25:14 says, “Broken promises are worse than rain clouds that don’t bring rain.” In other words they are worthless!

Betray Confidences

I don’t know the origin of the phrase, “If someone will gossip to you, they will gossip about you,” but I’ve found it to be true. If a manager betrays a confidence by gossiping to others, what makes you think they won’t betray your confidence? Such leaders cannot be trusted.

Proverbs 11:13 (HCSB) says, A gossip goes around revealing a secret, but a trustworthy person keeps a confidence.”

Blame Others

The first scriptural instance of blaming others occurs in Genesis 3. First the man blames Eve for the whole apple incident, and then Eve blames the serpent.  For the same reason that Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent, some managers today have a tendency to blame others rather than take responsibility. Leaders who blame others usually do it either to make themselves look better, or to make someone else look bad, or both.

Hosea 4:4 has an admonition for the priests who were the leaders of that day, “No one should accuse or blame another person. Don’t blame the people, you priests, when they quarrel with you.”

Refuse to Admit Mistakes

Look, aside from Jesus, no one is perfect. The manager who hasn’t been wrong or made a mistake hasn’t been born yet. So, if you are a manager who refuses to admit that you’ve made a mistake here and there, you can be sure that you are developing an atmosphere of distrust among your employees.

Proverbs 29:1 says, “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.”

Admitting a mistake is not a reflection of your weakness. Rather it is a reflection of your strength of character.


Leaders who want to cultivate a trusting relationship with employees need to avoid these five trust busters. By my way of thinking each of the last four are related to the first, lying.

  • Not honoring commitments means a promise has been broken. It’s better not to promise or make commitments when there is a chance you may not be able to honor them.
  • Betraying a confidence suggests you promised to keep a secret and didn’t. Again, lying.
  • Blaming others by not taking responsibility is lying since you’re trying to shift blame to someone else.
  • Refusing to admit mistakes is lying, at least to yourself, because let’s face it, none of us is perfect.

Employees relate better and trust managers who reflect their humanity with honesty, warts and weaknesses and all.

Join the conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you ever worked for a manager who displayed one or more of these trust busting characteristics? If so, how did you relate to them? Have you struggled with any of these yourself?

Category: Personal Development | Character

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