Restoring stakeholder trust after a misstep

It’d be nice if we could make it through our careers — and our personal lives, while we’re at it — without ever making a mistake. But that’s unrealistic. Alexander Pope summed it up best in the 1700s when he stated, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Unfortunately, he was right on the money with the first half of the quote, but we think he missed the mark on the second half of his maxim. We think that there are ways to help spark forgiveness and regain trust — especially in the workplace.


When you make a misstep at work, it’s important to regain the trust of your stakeholders: Coworkers, superiors, investors, even your own team. There are some critical steps that need to be taken in order to do so. First, it’s important to engage other people. If you lost your stakeholders’ trust, bring them into the conversation. Work with them to rebuild any burnt bridges. If you try to be the lone-wolf problem solver instead of a collaborating solution designer, it could appear as if you’re trying to cover up and not take accountability for the mistake.


After you’ve engaged with your stakeholders, you should then follow up with a collaboration analysis. Look at the process that led to the mistake. What steps could be put in place to prevent future similar mistakes? Does the governance of the organization allow for clear decision-making? Is there conflicting information? How does the administration factor into this? Should there be regular check-in meetings? The mistake has been made, but it’s important to be proactive in preventing future missteps. This analysis will highlight your desire to ensure it doesn’t happen again…not just to you, but to anyone.


It’s also important to note that you might have to hire a third-party mediator to regain the trust. This can show that you’re willing to put your pride aside and put the company first. It will also show accountability for your actions.


It should also be said that you might have to approach different people in different manners. Not everyone is going to respond to your apology and steps for the future in the same way. Some may need space to cool down before speaking to you again. Give them the space, but let your actions speak for you in the meantime. Others may want to go over every step in excruciating detail. Let them do this. But do not let this happen over and over. It can stop being constructive. In the end, remain focused on what you are trying to accomplish with the recovery process, count on your stakeholders’ feedback, and share the credit with them for any results achieved.


For more ways to help rebuild trust after a misstep, visit

J. Eduardo Campos, EMPA CISSP CPP (He/Him)

Board Member | Author | Executive Coach | Advisor
Talks about #ciso, #cybersecurity, #executivecoaching, #leadershipdevelopment, and #artificialintelligence