Management MistakeQuestion: I Have managed a team of 20 people at an engineering firm for the last three years. It was my first senior managerial role and since I took it on, I have had a very strong working relationship with my team. However, I recently made a major mistake which heavily impacted on my team members. I now feel I have lost their respect and trust, and their engagement has been low ever since. How can I regain their trust and rebuild the healthy working relationship we once had?

Answer: The Great Place to Work Group identifies trust as “the single most important ingredient in making a workplace great”. Employee engagement is central to a thriving workplace and this can only happen when a culture of trust is developed. When that trust has been compromised, it can seriously hamper employees’ engagement, which can have a negative impact on the organisation. When employees have been let down by a leader, it will take time to rebuild that trust. It won’t happen right away, but by following the steps below, you can start repairing your relationship and work your way towards improving engagement.


Own up to your mistake: The first step to earning back your employees’ trust is to own up to your mistake, apologise, and acknowledge how the consequences affected them. It is important that you do not make excuses, but you can offer an explanation for how it happened and assure your team that you are committed to handling matters differently next time. Be prepared to listen to feedback on how this has impacted your team and empathise with their situation.

Learn from your mistake: When we make mistakes, we can waste time beating ourselves up over them which doesn’t achieve anything. Think back to a time when someone on your team made a mistake and how you handled it as a manager. Every mistake is a learning opportunity and every good manager will enforce that belief in their team members. So, learn to be forgiving towards yourself and acknowledge your own positive actions. Put a system in place to ensure that when faced with a similar scenario you get feedback on your decision-making process. In terms of trust it would be impossible to come back from making the same mistake twice.

Develop trust: Think back to when you first took on your role. How did you earn trust then? The key to building trust is to give it first. Managers must be willing to trust employees and be able to develop the employees’ trust in them. Trust can only work properly when it runs in both directions. To achieve this, managers should communicate openly and regularly, allow their employees to express their opinions freely, be genuine and honest, follow through on their promises, and treat all their employees equally.

Set an example: The path to restoring trust isn’t smooth, and it is completely normal for emotions to run high when trust has been broken. However, it is important to remain professional.

There may be times when you feel like overcompensating to make up for your mistake and win back your employees’ trust, but it won’t help you earn back their respect.

Give credit: When your team is successful in achieving a target, praise them for their achievements and when reporting to your own superior, give your team the credit. Employees need a sense of purpose, to understand what they contribute and why it is important. If they feel that they bring value, and feel they are part of a team, they will contribute more.

Listen: The last and most important point is to listen. Ask your employees how they are doing and give them time to consider this and respond to you. Invite them to share their feelings about the workplace since the mistake and remind them that you are committed to making the workplace environment a positive one. This can be best-done one-to-one. You need to invest time and patience in building trust. By following these steps, in time, you will see the benefits on your employees’ engagement and performance.

This article first appeared in the business section of the Sunday Independent on February 3rd, 2019. To view the original article please click here

Niall Murray

Managing Director

Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services