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Team Trust: Real vs. Artificial Untrustworthiness

Updated: Apr 1

“I don’t trust them.”


Team Trust requires understanding the difference between people who are untrustworthy and people who have an inabiltiy to trust.
Teamwork - A Social Media Series of The Nexus Initiative

Famous last words we’ve all heard or said.


Let’s double-click into that phrase.



An Important Distinction To Understanding Team Trust Dynamics.


There is a difference between someone who:


A) is untrustworthy, and


B) has an inability to trust.


Someone who is untrustworthy (Scenario A)


Scenario A has more to do with the other person. Perhaps the other team member has a history of dishonesty by:


  • Commission: Examples include lying, deceit, gaslighting, not doing what they say they will, etc.

  • Omission: Examples include omitting information (for personal or professional gain), purposeful reactive information sharing, not saying the whole truth, etc.


This is real untrustworthiness.


Someone who has an inability to trust (Scenario B)


Scenario B has more to do with a team member’s inability to trust others regardless of the trustworthiness of the other team members. These team members tend to have a proactive bias toward suspicion.


These team members can inject suspicion into a relationship that otherwise might not have had it absent their injection.


Let’s call it proactive suspicion.


In some cases, the other team members, who do not have trust issues, will notice the

injection of proactive suspicion and respond with returned suspicion.


Let’s call it returned suspicion.


Here's where it gets interesting. The returned suspicion then serves as misplaced confirmation to the person with proactive suspicion. Sort of a "Ha! See. I knew I couldn't trust them" type of dynamic.


In this case, the other team members ARE trustworthy. There never would have been suspicion absent the party exhibiting proactive suspicion. There is only artificial untrustworthiness. It’s not real untrustworthiness.


How you address each scenario is different. It behooves all team members, including the team leader, to have an awareness of these important and subtle distinctions.


In scenario A, there is real untrustworthiness. The behavior needs to be called out and addressed.


In scenario B, the work lies with the person exhibiting proactive suspicion. Something in their past could prevent them from forming trusting relationships.


The other team members deserve to be "free of proactive suspicion." They deserve to be treated with the trustworthiness they have earned.


Teamwork Social Media Series

The Teamwork Social Media Series from The Nexus Initiative focuses on the “work” of making teams work better together. Teams that do the “work” of building teamwork provide a competitive advantage for their companies.


About The Nexus Initiative

The Nexus Initiative is a boutique Executive Coaching and Advisory firm based on real-world operating experience. If you know someone looking for a trusted confidant with real-world operating experience to be their coach, please refer them to my website to setup a discovery call.

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