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Rebuilding Trust in the Workplace

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Are you feeling less engaged, less committed and more skeptical at work? Do you find yourself isolated? Or are you caught in the middle of co-workers’ interpersonal conflicts? If so, you may be experiencing the symptoms of broken trust in workplace relationships. Small but hurtful situations accumulate over time into the confidence-busting, commitment-breaking, energy-draining patterns consistent with broken trust.

Broken trust is simply the natural outcome of people interacting with one another. Everyone has experienced gossiping, missed deadlines, someone taking credit for other people’s work and “little white lies.” You may have been hurt. You may have realized that you inadvertently let others down. Or, you may be wondering how to help others reeling from broken trust.

No matter your vantage point, Dennis Reina and Michelle Reina’s new book offers a proven seven-step process to heal pain and rebuild trust. This compassionate, practical approach will help you reframe the experience, take responsibility, forgive, let go and move on. Through healing, you will want to go to work again. You will feel safe to be more fully “who” you are and, once again give your organization your best thinking, highest intention, risk-taking and creativity. And in a place of self-discovery, self-trust and authenticity, you will connect more fully with others in your personal life as well.

While there have been many books on recovering from betrayal in personal relationships, this is the first book to focus specifically on the workplace, and the first to give equal weight to what to do when you have hurt others. It is firmly grounded in the Reinas’ 20 years of rigorous research on trust and the empathy they have developed from supporting thousands of people on their healing journeys.

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Step 1: Observe and Acknowledge What Happened

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“The distance is nothing; it is only the first stepthat is difficult.”

—Marie de Vichy-Chamrond,
the Marquise du Deffand,
French woman of letters

“I couldn’t get over what had happened. It was as if someone punched me in the gut. I was shocked that my boss took credit for work I had done so that she would look good in the eyes of the executive team.”

Betrayal hurts, and so does being let down, disappointed, or frustrated when the people you work with break the trust you have in them. The larger the breach, the greater the hurt. Observing and acknowledging how trust has been broken represents the first Step in the healing process. In this Step, you become conscious and aware of your thoughts and feelings about what happened. The opposite of awareness is denial. You cannot heal that which you are ignoring, denying, or rationalizing away. In this way, the first Step of rebuilding trust raises your self-awareness. Your partner in this Step is courage: the courage to be honest with yourself and see situations for what they are.

 

Step 2: Allow Feelings to Surface

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“Feelings are not supposed to be logical. Dangerous is the man who has rationalized his emotions.”

—David Borenstein
Polish artist

In the first of the Seven Steps, you opened your eyes and ears to observe a situation of broken trust and acknowledge its impact. Step Two is about opening your heart. Everyone—including the person who unintentionally or even intentionally hurts another—has feelings about a disappointment, letdown, or betrayal. Those feelings can range from a quiet sense of vulnerability and hesitation to a deep pain. And everyone is entitled to have and honor those feelings.

The second of the Seven Steps—allowing those feelings to rise to the surface—often comes as a “package” with Step One, where courage was your partner. Now, with compassion as your partner, you become fully aware of—and present to—your feelings so that healing can begin.

People we work with often experience Step Two as the “messiest” Step. Feelings surface in visceral and sometimes physical ways. Because surfacing feelings exposes your vulnerability, you may feel sad and discouraged in this Step. The Seven Steps for Healing graphic captures this sensation by depicting this Step plunging down—just like your energy. But like the graphic, you’ll start to emerge from this difficult place in Step Three. The support you’ll find there will be your stepping-stone to move into reframing the experience and find the lessons inherent in your situation.

 

Step 3: Get and Give Support

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“Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Support is the vehicle through which you use the pain surfaced in the early Steps as a crucial stepping-stone to the learning, lightness, and letting go inherent in Steps Four through Seven. Support reminds you that betrayal can be a gift and provides tremendous opportunity for growth when you let yourself see it that way. Step Three of the Seven Steps for Healing is about how you can reach out to others for support, whether you are the betrayed or the inadvertent betrayer.

Many times, people surface their feelings and then stop the healing process. Support helps you to make a choice about the path to take. Courage is your partner when you embrace Step Three. You choose to move into and embrace your healing. Conversely, when you choose to linger in Steps One and Two, you embrace the stance of the victim. Healing to rebuild trust does not happen to you, it happens because of you, as a result of the conscious choice you make about how to respond to disappointment, hurt, or pain.

 

Step 4: Reframe the Experience

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“You are in charge of your own attitude—whatever others do or circumstances you face. The only person you can control is yourself.”

—Marian Wright Edelman
Founder and President of Children’s
Defense Fund

Step Four is a turning point in your healing. With compassion as your partner, you reframe the situation from pain to gain by seeing the bigger picture surrounding the event, focusing on your choices and opportunities, and identifying the lessons you can learn. The gifts that come from healing are within your reach.

Reframing your perspective on a breach of trust—whether you were hurt or hurt someone else—can help you to see the greater purpose of this experience in your life.

It is as if you are on an archeological dig, only this is an exploration within yourself. You’ll go deep inside to seek wisdom through genuine inquiry. Through reframing, you are able to transform your experience of loss, fear, or vulnerability to a rite of passage. You will be able to use the hurt and pain as stepping-stones to professional and personal growth and renewal. Whether the betrayal was intentional or unintentional, you learn to listen to and trust in your Higher Self. You develop an understanding and respect for relationships and your trustworthiness deepens, allowing you to have a greater and deeper influence on others and on your workplace.

 

Step 5: Take Responsibility

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“The price of greatness is responsibility.”

—Sir Winston Churchill

British Prime Minister and statesman

Courage is your partner as you take responsibility for your role in broken trust, because telling yourself and others the impeccable truth without exceptions, justifications, or rationalizations is very tough. Telling the truth is the fundamental basis for trust in all relationships, including those at work. By telling the truth, you begin to take responsibility and acknowledge your mistakes.

Telling the truth is the fundamental basis for trust in all relationships.

You may find that you dip back into reframing (Step Four) and forward into forgiving yourself and others (Step Six) as you go further and further down this path of healing. Step Five works hand-in-hand with those two compassion-oriented Steps.

In any relationship between two people, both parties contribute to the dynamics that unfold, whether trust is being built or broken. Taking responsibility for your part of the breakdown of trust and the resulting impact on others means looking at your actions, reactions, and resulting choices. You do so by determining what part of the situation you own, taking action to move forward, and recognizing the gains you have made by choosing the path of healing.

 

Step 6: Forgive Yourself and Others

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“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

—Lewis B. Smedes

Through reframing and taking responsibility, you have shifted from blame and judging to understanding—understanding about what happened and why, and understanding about your choices, opportunities, and lessons. You have embraced what is yours to own. Step Six, Forgiving Yourself and Others, is about using compassion as your partner to transition from that foundation of understanding and responsibility to the courage of letting go in Step Seven.

In forgiving, you ask what needs to be said or done to put this situation to rest. With forgiveness, you create your future by working through your feelings and changing your attitude about the past. Forgiveness allows you to heal from being hurt or let down, or from the pain of recognizing that you hurt someone else. When you don’t forgive, you block your healing and thereby betray yourself. How? By not giving yourself the gift of growing from the experience. Importantly, forgiveness is not about forgetting. While you let go of blame and judgment, you continue to grasp the lessons you learned. Those lessons are often deep truths about yourself.

 

Step 7: Let Go And Move On

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Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it
.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

With courage and compassion, you have taken responsibility for the breach of trust through your actions or reactions (Step Five), and also forgiven yourself and others (Step Six). You have been moving through pain and guilt and are now ready to let go, in order to create an open space in the relationship in which trust can be rebuilt and renewal can happen.

Together, forgiveness, letting go, and moving on realign you with your sense of self. By being more fully aware of who you are, you expand your capacity for trust in yourself and others. The healing process is not about changing who you are; it is about becoming more deeply aware of who you are and honoring yourself.

Whether you were hurt or hurt someone else, in this Step you come to accept what has changed or been lost and what can’t be changed or regained. Once you let go, you free your energy for moving forward in productive ways. You are ready to go on with life, stronger and more self-aware, self-accepting, and confident than before the trust was broken. In moving on, you choose to act differently as you look forward rather than backward. As Michelle’ s father did in Step Six, you focus on living life in the future rather than in the past.

 

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