It seems sometimes that we’re living in an era of betrayal. Renowned money managers, senior elected officials, and Fortune 500 corporate leaders seem to betray our trust almost daily in the most shamelessly public ways. Then there are the little betrayals we face in everyday life from friends, intimates, bosses, or other colleagues.
When your trust is shattered, how can you make your way through the trauma to reassess the relationship? Sometimes betrayal causes a breach that may never be healed. In other cases, a rift can be repaired over time by communicating in the right way, making amends, or changing one’s behavior. The following examples of betrayals may help you manage similar situations in your own practice.
Q: One of the planners in my firm discovered last month that her husband was having an affair. Her productivity has slowed drastically, and some of her colleagues are having to cover for her. Knowing that she already feels terrible, should I speak to her about her impaired work product, or give her more time to get back to normal?
A: By offering your colleague soothing consolation and perspective, you may help her return to fuller functioning in as short a time frame as is realistic.
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Dennis Reina, who with his wife Michelle runs the Trust Building Institute in Stowe, Vermont, suggests asking this planner what support looks like to her. She may just need a friendly ear and help in keeping up with her workload.
Also ask the rest of your team how they feel about helping their workmate, what further support they would each be wiling to provide, and how you can help them shoulder the extra load.
Back in the 1970s, philosopher, researcher, and speaker Jean Houston gave a workshop I attended on “The Sacred Wound of Betrayal.” Her premise was that everyone experiences betrayals in intimate relationships. The important thing is to learn how to work through them, communicate honestly and respectfully about them, make amends for transgressions of trust, learn to forgive, and slowly forge even stronger bonds.
Your planner may have a long road ahead of her. But in the meantime, if you and your associates can keep covering for her and help her get back on her feet personally and professionally, you’ll undoubtedly be rewarded by her loyalty and hard work over time.
Q: After much thought, I decided to change my compensation structure from mixed fees and commissions to a 100% fee arrangement. When I mentioned this casually to a couple of clients, they reacted as if I’d stabbed them in the back. How can I introduce my new policy more successfully to the rest of my clients?
A: Upheaval and loss are so widespread these days that it’s no surprise your clients are balking at this change. Consistency and regularity are very important during times of turmoil, so no matter how legitimate the modification seems to you, this may not be the best time to institute a new policy.
You might consider inviting some of your most experienced and insightful clients to join an advisory board that would give you feedback on ideas like these before you implement them. By slowing down the process and soliciting comments along the way, you stand a good chance of strengthening your clients’ trust instead of damaging it.
Q: Our boss told us he believed in growing leadership from within, and he spent time and money helping several of us to learn leadership and management skills. However, last week he introduced us to an old buddy of his whom he has just hired as COO, and who clearly has the inside track to succeed him. We are seething and feel that he betrayed us. Should we speak out, or just start looking for other jobs?
A: Both. I think you should meet with the boss, but only one or two at a time; you don’t want to make him feel that his back is against the wall. Tell him how taken aback and disappointed you feel after his hiring of a new chief operating officer, and that this makes you question whether it’s still possible to advance in the firm.
Dennis Reina recommends giving your boss the benefit of the doubt. He may not be at all aware of what he did in throwing his old buddy into the succession mix. If you approach him with some compassion, it may be easier for him to acknowledge the pervasive feelings of hurt and betrayal he has caused, and to determine how he will rebuild morale in his work team. You might suggest that he hire a retreat facilitator to help his staff restore the trust in him that they have lost.