One of the most important things you have in the workplace is trust.  This intangible quality is something that, when present, helps work flow, projects get done, and teams work well together.

When it is missing, however, it can stall out nearly every attempted action you take.

Trust at work means that people believe what you say, have faith that you will complete projects you take on, and have confidence in your skill and expertise.

Granted, with the current political climate, and the presidential elections coming soon, campaign promises are heavy on the mind.  But they make a different in the workplace, too!

Over time, building trust with your colleagues – from your direct reports to your peers to your supervisors and other executives – mean you can get so much more done.  It is your ‘political cache’ in the workplace.

So let’s talk about what happens when you do NOT keep your promises, how it breaks trust, and what the repercussions can be.

Turning In Projects Late

Let’s say that you promise an internal client that you will have a project completed by next Tuesday.  But instead of Tuesday, you have it done by Wednesday or Thursday, or even later.

Of course at times there are true emergencies at work, or you might be waiting on someone else, or another factor comes into play that prevents you from completing a project in the timeframe you initially promised.

However, to the extent you make this a habit (as opposed to an infrequent occurrence), people around you will fail to believe you will finish things when you say you will.

This means they may lie to YOU about when something is really due (trying to account for your lateness) or simply not believe what you say.

If you’re going to be late, let your team know as soon as you know you won’t be able to make the deadline.  And then work to get it done as soon as you can thereafter.  And definitely don’t make a habit of it!

Are there folks around you that you have to count on to complete their part of a project?  What happens when they fail to do so?

Mistaking a Fact (Lying)

Often we find ourselves in meetings and we’re asked a question that we’re not 100% sure of its answer. Although it is important to seem authoritative and you want others to respect you and take you seriously, it is important to know when to say, “I don’t know,” “I’m not sure,” or “I’ll find out and get back to you.”

If you are not certain about an answer, it is much better to simply stating you *think* an answer is X, but you’ll confirm.  Or just say you’re not sure but will find out.  When you state the answer as “X” as if it’s a fact – and you’re wrong! – you have lost the credibility you once had in your area of expertise.

Once this happens, although others may not always say out loud, “Are you sure about that?”, you know they’ll be thinking it.  Don’t be in this situation.

If you thought it was one thing, and you find out you’re wrong, make sure and correct it right away.  Admit your mistake and then move on. 

What’s happened to you when you counted on what one of your colleagues said, and it turned out they were wrong?

Saying You Will Do Something and then Not

This is the worst.  If you promise someone – especially your boss – that you will complete a particular project, make SURE to get it done.

Sometimes projects become less important, and it seems that you no longer need to complete it.  If that is your perception, check in with others, and, if you’re correct, tell others you are not going to finish it (since it became obsolete).

But do not – under any circumstance – say you will do something and then not do so, without an explanation.  It undermines your trustworthiness completely.

People won’t count on you to do what you’ve promised, and anything you undertake will be carefully watched.

Have you ever seen one of your teammates completely fail to finish a project they started?  Why, and what happened?

On the other hand, if people watch your style of work, and find you competent, trustworthy and credible, you can ask for the next big project, promotion, or raise.  You will be given leeway when things don’t turn out the way you planned, and you will be granted extra consideration.

And THAT is a much better place to be in!

 I’m sure you can think about how other “campaign promises” make their way into the workplace.  What have you seen lately, and what happens when those promises at work are not kept?  On the other hand, what kinds of benefits have you been given when you prove yourself trustworthy?

Aurelia Flores is Senior Counsel at a Fortune 500 company and former Fulbright Fellow who graduated from Stanford Law School. Her website,, offers stories of success, along with resources and programs focused on Latino empowerment.


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