A reader writes to say that a coworker betrayed her. “He pretended to be my friend. But then he went behind my back, revealing a secret to our boss that got me in a lot of trouble.” She also says he set her up by encouraging her to take an action that he later used against her — although she didn’t find out for many weeks.
Now trust is an important part of any workplace. And when someone betrays you — especially a supposed friend — that can knock your trust level down to zero pretty quickly.
How to trust after a coworker betrays you
If a coworker betrayed you, from that point on it can be pretty hard to trust. But, as I see it, the real answer lies not as much in trusting everyone (there can always be idiots who play games), but in building your own relationships and reputation.
The stronger your footing within the organization, the less someone can do you in. Not impossible, but a lot harder. Also making sure you have a strong external network can offer further support when these things happen. And help finding your next job if needed!
Problem with secrets in the workplace
Whether you’re worried about being betrayed by a coworker or simply people knowing your personal business, secrets leak. No matter how solid you think that work relationship is, there may come a day when the friendship sours.
Always assume anything you tell someone in the workplace can get out. Yes, I wish life were different. But we can’t control how other people will treat our precious things — including secrets.
So is “trust, but verify” the answer?
There is a Russian proverb “Trust, but verify.” Basically, it means … sure, go ahead and trust. But also make sure you can check to see if the person is being true to their word.
So is this the solution for workplace trust? Well, the answer isn’t quite that simple, since relationships are involved. And strong relationships are an important part of workplace success and satisfaction.
From a Psychology Today article:
“…when the outcome is essential and matters more than the relationship, use “trust, but verify.” When the relationship matters more than any single outcome, don’t use it.”
It would be awful going through every workday always wondering who might be out to get you. And whose actions you need to “verify.” So I prefer to use my instincts and err on the side of trust.
BUT … I also think you need to keep your eyes wide open. And if you do get a sense of something not quite right, it may be time to look deeper.
One last thought
Still … building your own solid support system and work reputation is probably your best “protection” against betrayal. And making sure that when you do a good job, your boss and network know about it.
We often forget to support ourselves by letting people know when things go well. Nothing wrong with some pleasantly / casually shared success moments to bolster your workplace credibility!
More posts to help
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