As senior soldiers and junior officers, we have all had instances where trust has been broken in the workplace.

Here we share two articles from our US allies that discuss this matter in depth. The first article, Trust and Redemption in the Army Profession is by Major Jim Nemec via The Center for the Army Profession and Ethic (CAPE), and the second article, Trust: Implications for the Army Profession, by Colonel Charles Allen and Colonel William Braun via the United States Army Combined Arms Centre (USACAC).

The articles suggest that there are four components of trust: credibility of competence, benevolence of motives, integrity, and predictability of behaviour. They further suggest that trust may be broken when the individual's competence, commitment or character is brought into question. Let's briefly explore these further:

  • Competence: the authors suggest that Army professionals are likely to forgive leaders lacking competence, particularly when the level of competence is closely linked to inexperience, provided a genuine effort is made to learn and improve.
  • Commitment: a perceived lack of commitment is harder to restore, but not impossible provided the leader recommits themselves to the Army profession after a period of reflection on their willingness to continue service to the Nation.
  • Character: the tolerance for gaps in an individual's character and integrity is very low within the Army, as leaders are expected to be the moral exemplars of the organisation. The gravity of the mistake or identified character flaw will often dictate whether individuals are afforded a second chance to restore trust.

Do you agree that trust can be restored once it is broken within the workplace? Both articles suggest that the restoration of trust immediately following an incident is rooted in accountability, humility and transparency. They indicate that the essential ingredients to restore trust are a convincing apology with genuine remorse, and increased demonstration of character, competence and commitment over time. Particularly in the case of trust broken for character reasons, if both of these elements fail to work in unison, trust in unlikely to be restored once it is broken. Read each article and join our discussion:

  • What steps should individuals take to attempt to restore trust if they have broken it through their actions or inactions?
  • Are we too hard or too lenient on individuals that break the trust of the organisation? Have we got our values system right?
  • Do you think we provide enough of a framework around trust as part of Mission Command?  How do we 'leverage' trust to build a system of high-tempo, decentralised and effective decision-making that can overcome an enemy.
  • What about unethical/morally compromising behaviour that occurs after hours or in people's private lives?  Are serving personnel always 'on duty' and held to a higher ethical standard (consider the U.S. Army example of discharging members who engage in extra-marital affairs - should the Australian Army take action against unethical behaviour in members private lives)? Do you believe that people who willingly compromise their character (through lying, cheating, stealing, etc) at home, can truly be trusted in the work environment (why would their behaviour be any different in a work context)?