Should You Trust Your Boss? 5 Signs the Answer Is No

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July 21, 2024 at 8:29AM UTC
Trust is very important in any type of relationship. And, your relationship with your boss is no exception. How much you feel that your boss has your back can make a big impact on your career.
Good leaders understand that building trust is an important aspect of their job. It’s essential that clients feel that the company, and the folks that work there, are reliable and consistent. Board members want to know that they’re hearing the full story and that they can count on the honesty of the person at the helm. And, the trust (or lack thereof) that exists among employees, and between them and the higher-ups, matters quite a lot, too.
Still, not everyone feels that their boss is totally trustworthy. It isn’t easy to know how best to proceed when you find yourself in a situation like this. If trust has been damaged, can it be repaired? And, if not, what should you do next?

Should you trust your boss?

Levels of trust can ebb and flow. Relationships change over time, even the ones you have at work. And, every relationship is a little different. So, investigating trust often means doing some soul-searching. Ask yourself the following five questions to help determine where you currently stand with your boss.

1. Do the rules apply to everyone?

Do company policies and organizational norms apply to everyone or do some people seem to operate above the rules? For example, if most of your coworkers have to submit a time-off request at least a month in advance, but others don’t, it undermines trust. The same is true if some folks are reprimanded for showing up late but others aren’t. If the rules don’t seem to apply to everyone you might not trust your boss as much as you would otherwise.

2. Do they seem confident and secure?

If your boss seems insecure in his or her own abilities, it could damage how much faith and trust you have in them. They might do this in a straightforward manner, or by overcompensating.
“Often a boisterous persona masks insecurities,” sales coach Safiyyah Saafir told Reader’s Digest. “These insecurities are inflamed by the perceived threat of competence in others. In such a case, you can be seen as overstepping your bounds by just doing your job, which can impede career growth.”

3. Are they competent?

Competence is key when it comes to building trust. A lot of problems can arise if feel like you can’t trust your boss to do their job well. Their level of competence impacts the entire organization. There’s really no way for your boss to work around this one either.
If you don’t believe in your boss’s abilities, you won’t want to listen to his or her advice. You won’t be as open to their influence. In short, you won’t trust in their ability to lead and guide you. If your boss doesn’t seem capable of doing their job well, it will strip away at the confidence you have in them. You won’t trust in their ability to do the right thing.

4. Are they consistent?

You have to have some faith and trust in your boss’s emotional stability In order to feel comfortable communicating openly and honestly with them. No matter how awesome you are at your job, problems will arise from time to time that you’ll have to communicate to those working above you. If your boss is emotionally and behaviorally consistent, meaning you can reliably predict how they’ll respond to these kinds of talks, it goes a long way.
When a boss is consistent and steady it helps to build relationships that feels comfortable and natural. Folks will naturally gravitate toward individuals that bring this quality to the table. It bodes well for the success of the organization in general when someone like this is in charge.
However, when a boss is emotionally volatile, or otherwise inconsistent, it creates a divide. You might find yourself trying to find ways to avoid sharing things that might upset him or her. This is only natural. But, it’s not good for either of you ultimately, nor for the business. Consistency, on the other hand, builds trust.

5. Do they speak positively and appropriately about others?

If someone is willing to talk badly about others with you, then they’re probably also willing to talk badly about you to others. So, if your boss speaks out of turn about the people you work with, it can damage trust. Your boss might think that he or she is bonding with you by complaining about one of your coworkers or a board member, for example, but it’s understandable if that experience doesn’t sit right with you.
Folks in leadership roles ought to operate with integrity. That means that they are capable of keeping things confidential when appropriate. A trustworthy leader reliably speaks only about things that they’d feel proud for everyone to hear. When they’re speaking in hushed tones, it often works against their ability to build trust.
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What to do when you don't trust your boss:

You might feel pretty frustrated if the trust between you and your boss has been damaged, or never properly established. It can be hard to know how to recover. Thankfully, there are things you can do to help point things in a better direction and build trust.

Be open to improvement.

It can be hard to repair things when trust is damaged. But, it’s almost impossible to do this with your boss when you’re not open to the possibility that things could get better. So, start by taking something of a mental step back. Try to let go of the things that have happened in the past and try to begin to feel some improved sense of optimism for the future. It’s hard to be open when someone has disappointed you. But, in order for your relationship with your boss to improve, you have to be open to the possibility.

Be a trustworthy employee.

First of all, it is important to understand that trust is a two-way street. Are you doing everything that you can to build and sustain trust with the people you work for? If you want honesty, respect, competency and transparency, be sure you’re giving it in return. Always be honest and forthright with your boss. Do your job well, be positive around the office and respect your boss’s time. In this way, you’ll be doing your part to establish a sincere and trusting relationship. You’ll also set a good example for your coworkers to follow. Perhaps you’ll be able to shift the company culture toward valuing trustworthiness a little more. This is a good thing no matter what happens with your boss.


It’s hard to have trust without communication. So, be sure to communicate with your boss, no matter your current level of trust, in a clear and complete way. Don’t burden him or her with too many meetings. Open communication isn’t about that. Just focus on communicating in a thorough and sincere way, as appropriate, when things come up at work. You don’t ever want your boss to feel blindsided – that could impact how much he or she trusts you. So, always keep them posted along the way.
Also, communicate authentically with your boss about your professional goals and objectives. Be sure they know what you love to do, what you’re great at doing, and where you’d like to grow. If your boss can do something to help facilitate your enjoyment of your role with the company, it could go a long way toward building trust between you.

Don't forget body language.

Always remember that you’re communicating powerful messages to others by the way that you carry yourself, not just through the things that you say. Be aware of this when you’re with your boss and demonstrate your trustworthiness through your body language. Open body language is best — a relaxed and positive countenance, easy eye contact and a calm tone helps others to feel comfortable, and that builds trust.

Don't take it personally.

It takes time, and often some conscious effort, to develop trust in a relationship. So, don’t rush it or take it personally as you work toward this goal with your boss. Give the process time, especially if you’re new to the job or you and your boss are just getting to know each other. Being overly anxious and trying to rush the process could backfire.
Instead, take your time and allow the relationship to develop naturally. In the meantime, feel confident and secure in the knowledge that you’re doing all you can to establish a trusting relationship. That should help to move things in the right direction.
This story originally appeared on PayScale.

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