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Low-Trust Responses


Explanations > Trust > Low-Trust Responses

Hedging | Distancing | Quitting | Focusing | Alliances | Trust building


There are situations where we cannot avoid being having to work where we have low or limited trust of the people around us. We will typically act in such an environment to manage the trust.


Hedging is placing a bet elsewhere, such that if the current situation fails, you have more than a straw to clutch at. For example, in negotiation, developing a walk-away alternative action allows you to ‘walk the line’, knowing that you have a safety net, should you not reach agreement.

The problem with hedges is that they are distracting, both in terms of the work required to develop them and also in that they can start to appear even more interesting than the current work. This results in people putting not only putting less effort into the current work, but they may also leave altogether.


If I do not trust a person, a simple approach is to minimize my contact with them. By standing back and not getting involved, I minimize the risk of betrayal or other impacts of trust failure.

When a person is distancing themselves from their domain of work, they are not fully engaged and even though they may be occupied in useful work 100% of their time, they are not contributing to their full potential.


An extreme form of distancing is to leave the stage. If I feel that the distrust that has built up prevents me from doing my job in a satisfactory way, then I always have the option of leaving.

Leaving can mean finding another job within the company or even leaving the company for other shores. It also is a form of retribution, as the distrusted party is then left without my skills, and their lack trustworthiness may be exposed for all to see (especially if I leave with a few choice words in the right quarter).


By clarifying what I do and (often more importantly) what I do not do, I can send an unequivocal signal that pre-empts any criticism of my not doing tasks which are not my job. This also allows me to focus on building my competencies and proofs of competence in the defined area.

Also, if I ‘wear the hat’ of my role in interacting with others, I can hide my vulnerable human persona behind my assertive professional face.


If I do not trust you, I may decide to gang up with some other people who also have low trust in you. Such low-trust groups may collaboratively hedge or distance, magnifying the negative effects of these approaches.

I may also seek alliances with people who can add more beneficial elements, such as representing my achievements to you in a more positive light.


A generally more positive approach is to deliberately act to increase trust. If I act in a trusting manner, then you may well feel obliged or motivated to act in a trustworthy manner. I can also act in trustworthy ways, such as always keeping my word, completing tasks on time, maintaining high integrity in conversations, etc.

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