Being suddenly thrown under the proverbial bus is one of the worst feelings there is in a working relationship. It’s the sense of being betrayed by someone that you likely had some level of trust built with for their own gain. Perhaps you were blamed for something that you didn’t do, or they broke your confidence to share sensitive info, or perhaps they embarrassed you in front of others to make themselves look better. Whatever the reason, you’ve likely experienced it a time or two or you will most certainly experience it as you continue your professional journey.
You’ve been thrown under the bus, now what?
The thing about being thrown under the bus is that it always comes unexpectedly and suddenly. Perhaps you align with your work partner only for them to say that they totally disagree with your position after reading the room. That initial sting can send you swirling in many different mental directions at one time.
In the moment:
Let your EQ save you: This is another great work example where a strong EQ (EQ series starting at Ep 145) will swoop in and save you from any further damage. Do your best to instantly react, especially in a public setting. Let the emotions wash through you and then begin to react in a way that reflects well on you. In some situations, you may only have a few seconds while other times, you’ll have more than enough time.
Save face by taking the high road. It’s ok to say that whatever the other person said or did was a surprise to you and that you need some time to process and reflect. Offering the take the conversation offline in a meeting environment can take the heat off for now and keep the meeting moving forward as well.
After the incident:
Accept that this has happened and move forward: It can be hard to obsess about the incident… besides, you’ve likely been wronged and it can feel very personal as you continue to unpack in your mind how everything unfolded. At the end of the day, there is nothing that can be done to take the incident back. It happened. Mentally acknowledge that it happened, remind yourself that it does not lower the value that you see in yourself as a person, and begin to move to the next steps for closure and growth.
Get to the truth and root of the incident: Instead, of trying to find solace and validation with others, approach the other person who threw you under the bus after the incident and ask what happened. It’s fair for you to seek clarity and understanding of the reasoning behind their decision. Be mentally prepared because this conversation can go many different ways:
They may reveal their true colors and were never an ally to begin with
They may have acted impulsively and are regretful
They may not have the self-awareness to even realize what they did was wrong and hurtful
Don’t retaliate: It may be tempting to volley back resentment and anger or even worse, plot your revenge against the other person. Remember your values (EP 357 EP 358) and avoid this at all costs. You’ll have more productive ways to deal with the person based on the things that you learned from the experience.
Learn and grow from the experience
The shock of a break in trust can be difficult to overcome, in fact, it’s one of our highest searched subjects on the internet. Trust is certainly one of the lessons that I learn during the times that someone has thrown me under the bus – specifically how far my trust can go with the other person going forward. I would rarely fully write the person off, but I certainly reframed the relationship and became much more mindful of what I said or did around the person.
I’ve had others share with me that the lesson that they learned is that they trusted others too much. While I get where the person is coming from with this kind of statement, my experience has shown me that that kind of attitude and become the building block to a fundamental change in their leadership behavior in a negative way. You can’t stop trusting others because you’ve been burned.
Another way to gain insight from being thrown under the bus is to reflect back and understand some of the behaviors that may have been indicators that the person was capable of what they did. Some of those include:
Trying to take credit for things that they did not do
A lack of reciprocating information about themselves
A lack of showing vulnerability in their role
Statements like “It’s not personal”
Being thrown under the bus is never fun and can really hurt, especially if it comes from a friend or close colleague. Represent yourself well during the stinging moment, seek clarity, learn from the incident and move forward. You’ll build a character trait that will serve you well as you continue on your professional journey.
One of the guarantees in your work life is that you are going to be a part of new teams as you go on your career journey. Whether you are jumping on a team as a leader or a follower, it’s important to begin building that trust with them as early as possible.
While the reminder of building trust is a good one for us to consider, it can be far more challenging and complex to live out and be successful at. I can think back to times when it was extremely easy to build trust after they previously had a poor leader. Other times it was like climbing up a vertical mountainside because the team was so committed to the prior leader. Here are some strategies to think about as you work to build trust with that new team.
Find small wins to show you care
Ambitus leaders sometimes jump the gun a bit when they are with a new group. They want to show their strength and want to affirm their boss, and themselves, that their promotion or hiring was the right move. A mindful leader takes the time at the very beginning to learn about the pain points that people are going through and then they quickly and decisively make a move to secure a quick win. Some areas to look at include:
The common areas/break area: As a field leader, one of my first areas to get a quick win in was the breakroom. It’s amazing what a coat of paint and a little updating will do for morale trust-building. Common areas are another great area to consider. This need may not be voiced as much as in other areas, and that’s because they’ve gone blind to how bad it is. Use those fresh eyes you have to find a few quick facility-related wins. If you don’t have the authority or ability to make changes to areas like a breakroom, look for ways that you can enhance, clean, or add value to other areas of the shared workspace.
Efficiency opportunities: If you ask a new team what holds them back, frustrates them, or would be something that they would like changed, and they’ll often point back to an efficiency breakdown, an outdated process or redundancy in work. Pick out one or two that you can fix with a lower amount of effort and put them in place. People love when they can do their job easier.
Be accommodating: Get to know each individual and listen to their workloads and personal situations. Look for ways to be more accommodating by adjusting schedules, bringing in additional help, or helping people perhaps even change how and where they work.
If you can help in those three areas, you just showed your team that you care about their work environment, eliminated hurdles that get in the way of great work, and you an invested in the whole being and not just their work life. A powerful combo to build trust, wouldn’t you agree?
The key here is speed. The quicker you can get these kinds of wins the better.
Listen and learn before you change
It can be hard to walk into a scenario that’s especially challenging and not want to immediately change and fix everything. The trap here is that if you do start executing a large amount of change without the buy-in and trust of your team, your change won’t likely stick long term and your turnover rate is going to increase dramatically. Unless it’s a moral, ethical, or compliance issue, the problem can wait at least until you do some learning and discovery around the why behind the breakdown and what other circumstances may be leading to the issue. Be sure to approach the scenario from a curiosity perspective instead of one that is accusatory or as if you already have the answer.
“I would love to know more about…”, goes a lot further than “We need to talk about why this scenario is where it is.”
As much as your people want to hear from you, be mindful to listen more than you speak with your new team.
Gaining trust as a follower
Unless you are the CEO, you’ll also be joining a team as a follower as well. The temptation is similar here to try to shine and prove your worth immediately. Take a slower and more mindful approach here as well. Learn the dynamics of the group, who speaks up more, who holds back etc., while providing your input when it’s relevant.
Understand the people and build relationships with those you work with to help get an understanding of work proverbial land mines are out there and to get an understanding of some of the unwritten rules at the company. Also, consider:
Being genuine in your desire to learn about others on a personal level
Understanding how much time and space you are taking up in conversations
Keeping the same curious approach to understanding new areas of the business
Get your stuff turned in on time and be on early to meetings
Get to know those you lead and work with as you enter your new role and look for those easy early wins and be intentional to build relational equity early. You’ll be well on your way to establishing that trust that you so need as a leader
The transition and onboarding time can also be stressful as you want to show your worth with others and quickly build trust with the new team and leaders.
Let the Values and your ethics guide you
Nearly all established organizations have some form of values that they claim to adhere to. Great companies live those out and are intentional in keeping their Values front of mind with their people. At other companies, the Values may just be another decoration on the wall. Regardless of how deeply tied to their Values they may be, they are giving you a roadmap to build trust and credibility quickly.
Let your work and actions show your alignment with the Values and live them out in your daily routine. I also find it helpful to begin inserting the Values into my work vernacular to help me stay intentional in alignment and subtlely show others, my values, and ethics. Even today as I coach leaders across the US, I try to tie in their Values to conversations.
Standing up for what is right is another way here to help build trust and credibility. It’s more tempting as you try to find your place on the team to compromise a little in order to fit in and to please a consensus. Hold to your ethics to grow long-term trust with others.
Sometimes silence builds more credibility
It can be tempting to want to speak up a lot as a new person. Besides, they hired you for a reason and to be an expert or thought leader in your assigned area. The caution with always having something to say, especially as a new person, is that you may come across as trying to push your own agenda or perspective.
Lean into your active listening skills and have the self-awareness to know when you should, and shouldn’t, share. You can build trust and credibility by being a trusted ear where people feel like they can be heard and their input is valued.
Remember that trust takes time
You know how trustworthy you are, but it’s going to take some time to earn that trust with others. Here are some quick tips as you long-term trust with others.
Deliver on your word. If you make a promise, others know that it will come into reality.
Always be on time. Meetings, deadlines, tasks, and projects. A great way to build credibility incredibility fast is to show consistency by beating deadlines.
Trust others. Giving trust to others is an important part of receiving it as well.
Embrace accountability in yourself as you make mistakes. Take ownership, ask for forgiveness where needed and move forward.
How leaders can help
So maybe you are not new, but you are a leader of someone that is new to the organization or in their current role. Support their growth by helping them highlight these tips and behaviors in their work and interactions with others. Check-in with them to see how they feel their relationship-building efforts are going as they earn the trust of others.
Trust is the most highly valued commodity when it comes to relationship building, both in your personal and professional life. Your level of comfortability, authenticity, and transparency are all heavily influenced by your level of trust in someone. So how do we react when someone breaks our trust?
Lean into self-management during the moment
Self-management is a part of emotional intelligence is all about how you act, react, or don’t respond at all to people and situations. You’ll especially want to strengthen and lean into your self-management skills in heat of the moment when you’ve found out that there has been a break in trust.
Think of breaking trust like accidentally dropping a mug and breaking it. It was fine just a second ago and now it’s in pieces on the floor. Having poor self-management would be like you stomping on the mug and breaking it even further rather than taking a moment and starting to clean up. How you react at the moment can cause further damage or can re-direct the conversation on what positive steps can be taken next.
Take some time to heal and reflect
No one should expect a larger break in trust to be immediately forgiven. There is likely a lot of hurt, questions about other topics you trusted the person with, and now a reluctance to continue to trust that person.
It’s ok to take some time for yourself and give yourself and the other person time to reflect on what the break-in trust was and why it happened. Schedule time together to continue the conversation after you’ve had a chance to look at the issue holistically.
Be willing to forgive and move forward
There are going to be times when someone breaks your trust and either they won’t admit it or won’t be willing to apologize for what they have done. As hard as it may be, you’ll need to get to a point, eventually, where you are willing to forgive the person and move on.
I had an earth-shattering break in trust in my father that led us to not speaking for several years. After I accepted that he wasn’t going to apologize, I found myself looking for closure. I reached out and we cleared the air and this led to us starting to rebuild our relationship. That same year he passed away suddenly. I am so thankful that we were able to reconnect and begin to move past the issue.
You never know when the dynamic of a relationship will dramatically shift. Take it from me, letting go and forgiving someone is much more powerful than holding on to anger and resentment.
Give them another chance
I’m not advocating that you immediately give the person back all the trust and respect you had for them prior to the incident. Instead, give them small chances to rebuilt trust and earn the right to get back to the point that they previously were with you.
Even though they are the ones at fault, you have the power to allow them to rebuild a mutually respectful relationship again.
Make a better tomorrow. -ZH
Maybe you have broken trust with someone. Be sure to check out our podcast- Betrayal of Trust (EP 47)to hear actions that you can take to earn someone’s trust back