Daniel Goleman: How to work with untrustworthy peers

We’ve all worked with people we may not trust. No matter what you do – interact with them differently, keep a paper trail – you can’t shake your unease around your interactions with them. Yet you’re still expected to produce quality work as a team.

IMD professor and renowned hostage negotiator, George Kohlrieser, offers ways to navigate your dealings with an untrustworthy colleague – even if it’s your boss.

“The first step is to go inside yourself. Know what it is that you want. Know what emotion you have. Are you sad? Are you angry? Is it a combination? Once you find some clarity, try to sit down and talk with that person – transparently with empathy and bonding – about why you’re unhappy with them.

If the untrustworthy co-worker is your boss, that’s trickier on different levels. For starters, many bosses don’t really know (or care) that people are upset with them. They’re only looking at goals and performance. They’re not focused on the people.

But great leaders create a caring environment. They want to know what they can do to help – or change. High performing leaders want to know the truth. They would rather be slapped in the face with the truth than lied to with a kiss. They are open-minded enough to change their behavior.

If the untrustworthy colleague is a direct report, show that you care about them while still holding them accountable for their actions. The great leaders can more easily coach someone to change and grow if the person knows that their boss cares about their personal and professional development.

Addressing trust with colleagues requires a series of “putting the fish on the table” in a stronger way each time. You give a person a chance. Your emotional state can change somebody else’s emotional state.

I love to work with the bullies who say ‘I’m a bully, I’ve always been a bully and I’m never going to change.’ You can alter how you interact with such people if you engage in a dialogue to help them understand why they are the way they are, and what the benefit is if they change their behavior.”

Learn more about high performance leadership with George Kohlrieser in my video series Leadership: A Master Class.

Other resources:

What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters

Knowing Our Emotions, Improving Our World

Resonant Leadership: Inspiring Others through Emotional Intelligence

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Photo: s_bukley / shutterstock