Learning to Trust Your Boss

Dr. Cal LeMon

Notice the word "learning" in the title of this article.

I am convinced, trust is learned.

Trust is not a commodity, a package left on front steps or the contents of a three-ring binder. Trust is the accumulation of thousands of “trust points” that are swept up between our ears and deposited in our burgeoning “character” file we keep on people around us.

And, that is especially true about our boss.

Bosses give us direction, tell us when we fail and succeed, sign a paycheck and often determine our “success” in a workplace. These people are not just shuffling in and out of our life story; they can be pivotal to our sense of achievement.

So, how do you learn to trust a boss with all this power in your life?

First, the only way to trust is to put something you value out there to see if the other person will handle this with care.

I learn to trust my physician by telling him something I am concerned about. If he makes a joke about this symptom, ignores my anxiety or gives me a perfunctory I-am-somewhere-else-right-now answer, I will be looking for a new medical professional. But, I will never know the expertise of this person unless I hand over something of value to him/her.

With a boss the sample principle applies. If I never peel back the veneer of employment propriety and give my boss one of my best ideas, a deeply held opinion or a risky suggestion, I will continue to “play the game” and shuffle along with the masses mindlessly repeating the mantra, “You cannot trust anyone in this place.”

This first step certainly has risk, but is essential to building trust.

Second, when you are just being honest, disagree with your boss.

The crucible for testing trust is conflict. If you want to know the ethical character, emotional control and verbal skills of anyone, just disagree with the belief system of the other person.

You will discover, when giving an opposing view, if your boss has the mettle to defend a position but also maintain integrity. It is the boss who “writes you off” if you do not agree who cannot be trusted. On the other hand, if the boss responds with, “I disagree for the following reasons…and now I want to hear more about your position,” you have a trusting working relationship.

Finally, how your boss delivers bad news is a harbinger of whether or not you can trust this person.

Bad news, by its very nature, is unpleasant. There is a human dimension, soaked with lots of emotion, that accompanies announcements of layoffs, salary freezes, the soda machine is being removed because someone has figured out how to trick this device into dispensing free drinks, etc.

Did your boss “enjoy” delivering these pronouncements? Does your boss seem to “light up” when broadcasting “the sky is falling”? Does your boss joke with you and others he/she cannot wait for the reduction in workforce?

You will trust a boss who does not get euphoric when announcing your workplace will be diminished, dismantled or denigrated.

Trusting a boss is at the vortex of wanting to come to work each day. Look around. Using the three tests I have provided in this article may elate you with the admission you can and will trust your boss.

On the other hand, if your boss failed these filters, review your resume. There are respectful, smart and trustworthy bosses out there. Find one and... learn to trust all over again.