Topic of the Week Restoring Trust
Restoring People's Trust: The 4 "R's"
Lance Armstrong's fall from grace clearly illuminates that as hard it can be to establish your credibility, it takes a Herculean effort to restore trust once you're lost it. But there are specific actions that you can take to win back your company and your coworkers. Which reminds me of a study by a University of Santa Clara professor. He monitored 100 adults for how many lies they told each day. He found that most of the adults he tracked lied between one and two times a day. Before we all point fingers at Lance for being truth challenged, it's a good idea to take a long look in the mirror first.
I'm not exonerating Lance, by his own admission he's a bully, cheat and liar. But for anyone who has ended up in the doghouse at work, there is one huge difference between the process that we must go through to restore our reputation and Lance's. There is only one Oprah, and she can only get around to so many of us in a given year. So the rest of us are left to our own devices to win back people's faith and trust. Here are the 4 "R's" that you can use to begin your journey to regaining credibility where you work.
Reflect. Don't even think about an apology until you've taken a long look in the mirror. What did you do wrong? Who did you hurt? How can you repair the damage? And why did you jeopardize their trust in the first place? This is a difficult and painful process and it should be. But if you skip over the challenging self-reflection part, chances are that you'll make the same mistake again in the future.
Regret. An effective apology is crucial. Admit that what you did was wrong, show people that you understand the ramifications of your actions and show actual contrition for your mistakes. Be prepared for people to not embrace your apology, but to be upset or skeptical. That's part of the process for them in trusting you after you let them down. Be patient, they need to proceed on their own timeline, not on yours.
Reform. As important as the apology is, it's just the beginning of your journey. You've also got to show people that this won't happen again. Say the problem was an angry outburst, sign up for an anger management program. Or get a sponsor. Take whatever concrete steps you can to show that you've learned from your mistake and made changes that will prevent it from happening again.
Results. You'll probably be able to win back the trust of many, but be prepared for the fact that some won't ever trust you again. You can't control how people respond to you. But you can control your behavior and prove to people each day that you are now someone who they can trust.
Until we can successfully clone Oprah, you've got the 4 "R's" for regaining the trust of the people you work with.
Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.