If everyone was professional, we would not need HR. While that is not exactly true, it is true that employee relations issues can take a lot of time to address for both managers and HR teams.

In many cases, neither managers nor HR have the bandwidth to help resolve issues of trust. Here are a few actions to take when you do not trust a colleague.

Tread Carefully

With time and little else to do, we could all figure out ways to verify our colleagues’ intentions. Alas, most of us have jobs to do that do not revolve around determining the integrity of our co-workers.

Trust is a tricky issue: it can be tough to measure, difficult to articulate and challenging to prove.

One of the best first things we can do when working with a seemingly untrustworthy colleague is to try to nail down — in our own words — what exactly it is that leads us to believe she is untrustworthy.

For example, consider if any of the untrustworthy actions affect us directly; whether our information is coming from co-workers or indirect experience; and/or how much this belief impacts our daily work life. If it seems difficult to answer these questions, it can be helpful to think back to when the issues started. Such reflection may help frame the source of the issue.

Next, with this information in mind, we must determine ways to prioritize, fact-check or test the issue.

Specifically, if it is not happening directly to us, it may have to take a lower priority. If it is, we need to determine how important is it, how valid is it and how much time we have to commit to addressing it.


When we do the above exercise, we should write down the issue, beliefs and facts, and whether it will be addressed now or put on the backburner.

Doing so does three things. First, if it is something we are going to deal with, writing it down can help us plan our next steps.

Second, writing it down may confirm that we have no facts or should not make it a priority now. And, writing it down can provide perspective in retrospect that the issues are not big enough to worry about. That can prove very helpful if we decide we want to let it go.

Third, documenting it captures our feelings at this moment which can help validate future concerns as part of a trend. This is very helpful if the proof of the issues seems small, intangible or like the tip of the iceberg.


Finally, if we choose to engage, we should do so actively and not reactively. Picking our battles is key; as is fortifying our borders.

In other words, if we do try to address this issue, how can it come back to harm us? What have we done to create the atmosphere or contribute to the actions?

No one is perfect, but it is important to try to understand whether our argument may be weak, how we may be part of the issue or when the best time to take next steps is.

The bottom line is trust is a tricky thing to prove or disprove. Use these steps to determine whether the issue deserves the attention it will require to address and if not, how to put it on the backburner, for now.