Trust: When You Give Your Word

Posted by Bernie Reifkind on October 12, 2012

“I give you my word.”

Those 5 words were said to me recently from a candidate that had accepted a job offer from one of my clients.  He shook hands with my employer client and accepted the job.

I then congratulated my candidate on his new position and he thanked me for assisting him in not only receiving an extremely generous offer, but in finding a better position only 10 minutes from home.  All things were go.  There was an agreed upon start date.

Done deal.

At this point in the placement process I usually caution candidates about the difficulty in resigning.  The possibility that there may be a counter offer and the danger of accepting a counter offer.  (I will be writing about this topic in a future blog.)  I also discuss the fear factor in starting something new.  The fear in making a job change is very real and it’s important to talk about it.

My candidate assured me that he would not accept a counter offer under any circumstances.  As for fear, he told me that he was completely at ease with his decision.

I believed him.

My final question (after congratulating him again) was: “is there anything at all that you have not told me that would prevent you from starting your new job on the given start date?”  He assured me that nothing short of being struck by lightening would prevent him from starting his new job.  He then gave me these 5 words:

“I give you my word. ”

After 5 days went by, lightening must have struck because my candidate suddenly called me to decline the offer and to forgo the new job with my client.  A big mess, for my client who was planning on his arrival.  A big mess for me also, because I look bad to my client and now I have to start the search all over again.

My candidate gave me a some asinine story that seems a bit far fetched but non the less, his decision was final.  My guess is that perhaps fear played a major stake in his decision or that he did in fact accept a counter offer.

But the most bothersome part of this whole fiasco is that he gave me his word.  His word meant nothing.  It was an empty promise.

I do believe that factors can change that can alter a decision, but when you make a well thought out decision with a promise followed by “your word” then your decision is final.


Many people can argue that things put in writing is the surest way for someone not to renege on a promise.  Really?  Any agreement can be terminated provided that costly legal representation is involved.

But when you give your word, doesn’t that have a dramatically different meaning?

Yes it does. When you give your word, trust becomes your emotional collateral.  Once trust is broken, it is never again fully regained.  There is much collateral damage.

Trust is our most sacred currency.

Trust can not be bought, it must be earned.  It’s extremely fragile and can easily be shattered.   On the flip side, trust can pay a lifetime in dividends.

When you shake hands and give your word, there is no going back.  Let’s not be naive here.  We’re not talking about buying a watch from a guy on a street corner.

Moving forward as I continue to do business, I choose to accept someone when they give me their word.  I offer trust up front in the hope that it is returned.  My word means everything to me.

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche


I am Bernie Reifkind,CEO and founder of Premier Search, Inc. I can be reached at 1(800) 801-1400 or email at  I welcome your phone call.

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