Trust And Betrayal In The Workplace

Trust And Betrayal In The Workplace – Building Effective Relationships In Your Organisation

– D & M Reina – Book Review by the late George Robotham


Those of you who follow my ramblings will have seen me say interpersonal skills, communications skills, leadership skills and an ability to manage organisational change are just as important as OHS technical skills for the OHS person. In the early stages of this brief paper I suggest some resources for the above areas.

In the latter part of the paper I provide some comments on trust and give a brief review of a text on trust and betrayal.

Broader skills

I have written briefly on communications skills and interpersonal skills. I recommend the text Communicating Change by T.J. Larkin for some simple but effective communications messages that can be applied to safety change.

Leadership ability is vital and I have also written on this.

The following references are recommended-

Readers are particularly directed to the paper “ Leadership Principles for The Safety Professional” presented by Eddie Greer at the A.S.S.E. Professional Development Conference, June 13, 2001, Anaheim, California.

A.S.S.E. paper “Dimensions of supervisor effectiveness” by Jim Spigener,25/6/04.This paper is considered particularly useful on the topic of safety leadership, there are some limitation in use associated with this paper and potential readers are directed to

“Colin Powell on Leadership”, Baraka Training and Management, U.S.A. is a powerful presentation on general leadership that can readily be integrated into OHS.

There are many books on management of organisational change that are overly complex and confusing. I have written a few papers on this that you are welcome to.

John Kotter’s text “The heart of change” is a recommended must-read for anyone undertaking cultural change. Safety professionals reading Kotter’s book will quickly realise its relevance to safety change.

Kotter speaks of 8 principles for meaningful change-

  1. Increase urgency. Those who are successful in change begin their work by creating a sense of urgency among relevant people.
  2. Build the guiding team. With urgency turned up the more successful change agents pull together a guiding team with the credibility, skills, connections, reputations and formal authority required to provide change leadership.
  3. Get the vision right. The guiding team creates sensible, clear, uplifting visions and sets of strategies.
  4. Communicate for buy-in. Communication of the vision and strategies comes next-simple heart-felt messages sent through many unclogged channels. Deeds are more important than words. Symbols speak loudly. Repetition is the key
  5. Empower action. Key obstacles that stop people working on the vision are removed.
  6. Create short-term wins. Short-term wins provide credibility, resources and momentum to the overall effort.
  7. Do not let up. Change leaders do not let-up they create wave after wave of change until the vision becomes a reality.
  8. Make change stick. Change leaders make change stick by nurturing a new culture. Appropriate promotions, skilful orientation and events can make a big difference.


One thing that runs through the leadership literature is the vital importance of trust. I have worked for a few people I did not trust and had a few occasions when people have acted like they did not trust me. Lack of trust ruins relationships and erodes effective management of organisations. I recently came across the text Trust And Betrayal In The Workplace-Building Effective Relationships In Your Organisation. It is a 250 page book, easy to read, practical and contains some excellent advice for OHS personnel. There is good discussion early up about the nature of trust and betrayal.

Trust model

The authors present a 3 part trust model

1 Contractual trust-Manage expectations, establish boundaries, delegate appropriately, encourage mutually serving intentions, keep agreements, be consistent.

2 Communication trust-Share information, tell the truth, admit mistakes, give and receive constructive feedback, maintain confidentiality, speak with good purpose.

3 Competence trust-Acknowledge peoples skills and abilities, allow people to make decisions.

Advice is given on how to practically introduce the above types of trust.

Rebuilding and sustaining trust

One part of the book talks about how rebuild and sustain trust once it has broken down.

Some of the ways betrayal may occur include-disclosing corporate secrets, sabotaging corporate data, restructuring resulting in layoffs, delegating without giving authority, gossiping and backbiting, accepting credit for others work, repeatedly arriving late for work, not keeping agreements.

Healing betrayal

The authors talk about steps for healing betrayal

Observe and acknowledge what has happened

Allow feelings to surface

Get support

Reframe the experience

Take responsibility

Forgive yourself and others

Let go and move on

There is discussion on how to practically implement the above.


Trust is vital in all relationships. This book offers easy to understand, practical advice on building and sustaining trust. It is not often that I come across a book I would recommend to fellow OHS people but this is one.

George can be contacted on, he welcomes debate on the above (it would be indeed a boring world if everybody agreed with George)


George Robotham, Cert. IV T.A.E.,. Dip. Training & Assessment Systems, Diploma in Frontline Management, Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education), (Queensland University of Technology), Graduate Certificate in Management of Organisational Change, (Charles Sturt University), Graduate Diploma of Occupational Hazard Management), (Ballarat University), Accredited Workplace Health & Safety Officer (Queensland),Justice of the Peace (Queensland), Australian Defence Medal, Brisbane, Australia,,,07-38021516, 0421860574, My passion is the reduction of permanently life altering (Class 1 ) personal damage

George Robotham

George Robotham

George was a Legend in the Safety World who passed away in Sept 2013 but left us with a great legacy
George Robotham
I have worked in OHS for most of my working life, many years in the mining industry including over 10 years in a corporate OHS role with BHP. Since leaving the mining industry I have worked in a variety of safety roles with a variety of employers, large & small, in a variety of industries. I was associated with my first workplace fatality at age 21, the girl involved was young, intelligent, vivacious and friendly. Such a waste! I was the first on the scene and tried to comfort her and tend to her injuries. She said to me “George, please do not let me die” We put her on the aerial ambulance to Rockhampton base hospital where she died the next day. I do not mind telling you that knocked me around for awhile. Since then I have helped my employers cope with the aftermath of 12 fatalities and 2 other life-altering events. The section "Why do Occupational Health & Safety" provides further detail but in summary, poor safety is simply very expensive and also has a massive humanitarian cost. My qualifications include a certificate I.V. in Workplace Training and Assessment, a Diploma in Frontline Management, a Diploma in Training & Assessment Systems, a Bachelor of Education (Adult & Workplace Education) , a Grad. Cert. in Management of Organisational Change and a Graduate Diploma in Occupational Hazard Management. I am currently studying towards a Masters in Business Leadership. Up until recently I had been a Chartered Fellow of the Safety Institute of Australia for 10 years and a member for about 30 years. My interest is in non-traditional methods of driving organisational change in OHS and I have what I believe is a healthy dis-respect for many common approaches to OHS Management and OHS Training. I hold what I believe is a well-founded perception that many of the things safety people and management do in safety are “displacement activities” (Displacement activities are things we do, things we put a lot of energy into, but which when we examine them closely there is no valid reason for doing them). My managerial and leadership roles in OHS have exposed me to a range of management techniques that are relevant to Business Improvement. In particular I am a strong supporter of continuous improvement and quality management approaches to business. I believe leadership is the often forgotten key to excellence in most aspects of life. I hold the Australian Defence Medal and am a J.P.(Qualified). I have many fond memories of my time playing Rugby Union when I was a young bloke.

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