How To Effectively Build Trust in the Workplace

I listened to a podcast about trust the other day. It was amazing to sit here and realize just how much trust has diminished in the workplace during the past few decades. Handshakes seldom make deals; lengthy contracts do. Video cameras have been installed in businesses everywhere to ensure both safety and honesty among its employees and visitors. And these are just two examples.

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To be trusted, one must prove him or herself to the employer. Be trusted with time. Trusted with the workload. Trusted with the customers. Trusted with the product. You get the picture; trustworthiness takes effort and grows over time.

And how can one be a manager worth trusting? Indeed, it is individual managers who set the precedent for trust, not necessarily the company at large. Although company culture as a whole certainly plays a role, it's primarily the human effect which influences how employees judge the trust factor at any given business.

How to Establish Yourself as a Trusted Manager

Trust between people has to do with so many aspects of our thoughts and behaviors. Here are just a few:

  1. the character and integrity we possess
  2. the care and consideration we give to those in our circle of influence
  3. the value we place upon and convey to each employee
  4. the effective communication methods we establish and maintain
  5. the helpful disposition we portray and practice
  6. the knowledge and understanding we seek
  7. the example we set before those in our care and under our authority

Can others trust your PROFESSIONAL CHARACTER to be exemplary?

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  • Integrity: Be who you say you are, and behave in a consistent manner. Let outward actions and spoken words reflect your integrity.
  • Reliability: Keep your word or explain why you don’t . . . without others having to ask for an explanation. Follow up with those who confide in you for answers or direction - even with ideas.
  • Honest Disclosure: Tell the truth. Don’t deceive those in authority over you or those working under your authority. Truth is also necessary between coworkers, spouses, parents/kids, and friends. The reason truth matters so much is because it affects others' ability to trust you.
  • Humility: Be willing and humble enough to do any task that you assign an employee and then do it occasionally. It builds bridges, creates understanding, and sets the tone for a service-oriented mindset.

Can others trust you to CARE about the people under your authority?

  • People-centric: Have your employees' best interests at heart. Give them the chance to shine.
  • Relationship Builders: People won’t feel safe and secure if some level of trust between manager and employee is not established and continually built upon. As a manager, are you building long-term relationships with your employees? Building and fostering relationships will help establish trust and loyalty among your staff.
  • Getting Personal: Get to know and care about your employees on a personal level; this means you should comment when they are happy, sad, hurt, tired, excited, or even distracted; it does not mean you should delve into truly private matters unless there is mutual interest and willingness to do so.

Can others trust you to be a considerate manager who VALUES his/her employees with all their quirks, weaknesses and unique traits?

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  • Mindful: Goal-oriented managers can be hard-pressing individuals who (regardless of all their other successes) sometimes fail to notice and consider the varying personalities working alongside him/her in the office: the fearful and distrusting, the depressed, the competitive, the busybody, the comedian, the insecure, the highly (un)sociable, and the resistant (to change).
  • Team Builder: By giving people the opportunity to collaborate on important projects, you give value to personal insight and input.
  • Employee Insights: Know your staff, their strengths and weaknesses, and help them grow without being unnecessarily exposed for any of the ways they fall short.
  • Value: Sometimes trust can be built by verbally placing value and importance on a person’s work.
  • Staff Development: Invest in the development of your entire staff, not just your favorites.

Can others trust your COMMUNICATION skills to result in good things?

  • Wise Words: Careless, condemning words are not effective in producing positive outcomes: I knew you would react that way! You always overreact when there’s a problem! What a dumb, idiotic thing to do! 
  • Good Listener: Work hard to improve your active listening skills.
  • Friendly: Call people by name and smile, then build relationships by starting on-going conversations.
  • Acknowledgement: Give credit where credit is due – publicly, out loud.
  • Feedback: Provide your staff with honest feedback regarding their work, position, and future with the organization.
  • Communicating Change: The need for solid rationale regarding major changes in the workplace is helpful, if not imperative, for most people. Taking the time to give a logical explanation, when possible, will go a long ways toward building that bridge of trust and respect.

Can others trust you to HELP them when they encounter trouble?

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  • Problem Solving: When you encounter a problematic situation, a conflict, or even an emotional struggle, address it immediately.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Reacting too carelessly, critically or harshly to another’s honest admission of anything can ruin relationships, not to mention trust. 

Can others trust you to be KNOWLEDGEABLE of both the work and the people under your authority?

  • Personality and Behavioral Insight: Understanding the different yet common behaviors of people is impressive, but learning how to relate to these differing styles of behavior is vital to true managerial success.
  • Behavioral Assessments: Get to know your employees’ strengths, weaknesses, temperaments and skills; utilize behavioral assessments to gain insight into these areas.
  • Managerial Quality: When you understand what people need, then you can work towards meeting that need. Employees want managers who provide results, effective follow through, empathy, honesty, appreciation, structure, and opportunities to shine.
  • Understanding Motivation: Understanding what motivates and inspires others toward good work and even loyalty is necessary.
  • Truth Over Fiction: Be in-the-know so that you deal with reality and facts, not with others’ perceptions of reality.

Can others trust you to set the EXAMPLE for what is expected behavior?

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  • Accountability: Make yourself accountable not only to your boss but also to your staff. Be quick to admit your mistakes so that when you must address similar problems with your employees, it’s not revealing a double standard on the part of management. Let honest admissions, apologies and making things right become acceptable, routine behaviors.
  • Vulnerability: Be vulnerable and willing to share your own failures, struggles and disappointments if it seems appropriate, but don’t overshare; you simply want to relate honestly, convey concern, and establish trust so that helpful communication can occur.
  • Awareness and Sensitivity: When making changes, be sensitive. Manage and pace those changes with care.
  • Flexibility: Be approachable and as flexible as possible when employees need a little extra grace to deal with personal matters.
  • Giving to Employees: Be a giver, not simply a taker. Employees do a lot of good for the managers and companies for whom they work. Remember to give words (or even HR approved gifts) of approval and appreciation. Finally, insist on excellence, but in doing so, let your staff know that you trust them to deliver exactly that.

How to Become a Trustworthy Employee

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  • Service: Serve your employer, coworkers and clients well.
  • Priorities: Make the company’s goals your goals. Meet your deadlines. Keep your word.
  • Higher Level Engagement: Work with the company’s vision in mind; make it come alive for the clients and customers with whom you engage; leverage your influence for the greater good rather than for selfish gain.
  • Reliability: Be a planner. Know the value of others' time. Show up on time, every time. Better yet, arrive a few minutes early. Then, if you're in charge . . . be brief, be bright, and be gone.
  • Team Player: As a member of the team, try to think like a manager. Value others and their input. Speak up. Build good working relationships with everyone. Be patient with and encourage others. Compromise when it's for the greater good. Lead, but not necessarily every time. Let your skills, ideas and work ethic shine rather than your ego.

How to Know When Trust Is Present

  • Freedom: There will be less self-protective behavior among employees and their manager(s); people will feel free to be themselves and let their guard down occasionally, if not often.
  • Less Fear: People will feel more inclined to admit mistakes and make them right because that is the “new normal” in response to mess-ups.
  • Stronger Interpersonal Relationships: Expect relationships to improve. Why? Because they are deeper once trust is “built” into them.
  • Rewarding Collaborative Efforts: Teamwork will also improve because where there is trust, there is freedom of exchange regarding individual ideas and opinions. Fun and camaraderie are also earmarks of a strong team.
  • Active Respect: Mutual respect becomes a very real part of company culture - and not necessarily the quiet kind, rather, the give and take sort of respect. A respectful yielding to authority will always be present, especially when tough decisions have to be made.
  • People Care: When management notices and cares enough to comment (privately, if necessary) on the obvious feelings or disposition of his or her employees . . . and even vice versa, when appropriate.

For more great insight about trust, check out Charlie Green's e-book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

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For more information about behavioral assessments, contact Brannon Professionals, an authorized provider of TTI Success Insights' behavioral assessments for over 15 years.