Corporate Adulting

Are You Untrustworthy?

10 Untrustworthy Behaviors at Work

No doubt when you read the article title, you said in your head, “Of course I’m not untrustworthy!”

But are you?

Most people come to work intending to do a good job. They plan to do what they say they are going to do. But oftentimes and regardless of good intentions, good people may find themselves acting in untrustworthy ways. Here are 10 ways untrustworthy behaviors happen at work.

1. Not Living Up to Your Commitments — All of us forget to follow up on an email or a task periodically. When reminded, most people are embarrassed that they forgot and immediately rectify the situation. But when it comes to the big-ticket items, if you do not live up to your commitments, your team, peers, and manager will begin to lose faith in you — and you will ultimately lose their trust.

Lesson: Don’t be that person on a group project who lets everyone else down.

2. Not Holding Yourself Accountable — Holding yourself accountable to complete items in a timely fashion is important to retaining trust. If you consistently miss deadlines, make excuses, and fail to complete the work expected from you by others, you will lose trust.

Lesson: If you do not hold yourself accountable to pull your weight, why are you here?

3. Not Holding Your Team Accountable — Similar to holding yourself accountable, you can damage your relationship with others when you do not hold the members of your team accountable for performing their tasks. Managers who allow poor and unacceptable performance and behavior lose respect and trust from their peers, manager and yes, even the employees on their team.

Lesson: Show tough love and correct performance and behavior issues before they get out of hand.

4. Having Someone’s Face, But Not Having Their Back — If you smile and agree while speaking with someone, but then disparage that same person’s decisions or actions in sidebar conversations, you are demonstrating untrustworthy behavior. Even if that person does not find out, the person(s) you are speaking with will see how you are treating others — and know that they will fare the same down the road.

Lesson: Adhere to the Golden Rule — Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You

5. Talking About Others (Gossiping) — Similar to the one above, this untrustworthy behavior is when you may be participating in discussions about someone’s lifestyle, personal choices, appearance, etc. These comments may not only impact the perceptions that others have of the person, they can also be ruinous to the person’s career, personal life, or work relationships.

Lesson: Gossiping about others can be hurtful, damage reputations and relationships long term.

6. Undermining Your Peers, Manager or Employees — How many times have you been in a meeting with someone, and they say “Bob is great, BUT…”, and then go on to describe something Bob has done they believe is actually not great. The compliment paired with the criticism is a somewhat sneaky way to undermine someone’s capabilities — and may backfire on you.

Lesson: Undercutting others to your manager, peers or team will make you appear petty and critical. Others will wonder what you say about them when they are not in the room.

7. Sharing Confidential Information — If you are given a confidence by someone or work, or if there is information that your leadership has explicitly asked you not to share — and you do — you are exhibiting untrustworthy behavior.

Lesson: Maybe they don’t find out most of the time…but if they do? Why take the chance? Keep your mouth shut.

8. Not Including Key Stakeholders When Making Decisions (Whispering in the Boss’s Ear): If you influence your boss to make a strategic decision that benefits you, but doesn’t include input from others who will be impacted by said decision, your peers will begin to believe you are untrustworthy. The longer-term implication is that they will eventually engage in the same behavior and leave you out in the cold when other decisions are being made.

Lesson: Getting what you want in the wrong way can have longer term damaging impacts.

9. Being Emotionally Inconsistent: I think we have all known people like this. Those coworkers who have wildly different reactions based on the day and sometimes even the time of day. Someone who’s reactions you cannot predict and who’s responses you cannot depend on to be consistent.

Lesson: If you are inconsistent in your reactions, your employees and peers will begin to avoid including just to avoid the hassle of dealing with you and your mood swings.

10. Blaming Others for Your Failures: Last but not least, this colleague is never wrong. They never take ownership or responsibility for what goes wrong and seeks to place blame on others.

Lesson: Playing the blame game will make others wary of working closely in partnership with you and they will start playing their own game of CYA (Cover Your a$$) in every way possible.

No one is perfect. But having awareness of your behavior and how it may be perceived by others around you will help you prevent demonstrating untrustworthy behavior at work. Trust is built over time but can be lost within just one misguided interaction. If you do behave in an untrustworthy fashion, it is your responsibility to apologize, rectify the wrong or change your ways to gain back trust.

Thanks for reading! Read more of my Corporate Adulting Blog series at



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