10 Ways to Build Trust in the Workplace (and Why it’s Important)

black and white arms shaking hands in a black and white photo

What happens when co-workers find it difficult to build trust in the workplace? A weak link develops and any trust that existed starts to dissolve between work teams, which often proves to be detrimental to the company. Trust between co-workers can be established or even repaired when the office shares common beliefs in communication, culture, and work values. The entire organization has to be on the same page within these core beliefs, which are in the company’s DNA and should trickle down to touch everything—including company culture and workplace trust.

“Culture is a thousand things, a thousand times. It’s living the core values when you hire; when you write an email; when you are working on a project; when you are walking in the hall.” Brian Chesky, Co-founder of AirBnB

Trusting in your company’s core values and taking ownership of mistakes is a good start. For example, Tiger Woods admitted that his erratic behavior caused family, friends, and colleagues to lose trust in him. In his statement, he said,“I stopped living according to my core values. I knew what I was doing was wrong but thought only about myself and thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to.” Tiger Woods’ ego became his downfall; costing him his family, career, and millions of dollars in endorsement deals.

To build trust within a company, start with effective and open communication between executives, management, and employees. A recent study by Ultimate Software and the Center for Generational Kinetics found that 80 percent of employees believe they could do their jobs without managers. This suggests that in many cases, managers are unfit to lead, or don’t know how to lead, which results in underwhelming employee performance and higher turnover. Furthermore, Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager study found that disengaged employees cost U.S. companies $500 billion in production losses annually.

So how can a company avoid such losses in production? It all starts with trust in the workplace.

10 Ways to Build Trust in the Workplace

  1. Be Transparent with Information
  2. Avoid Office Gossip
  3. Give Praise + Positive Affirmation
  4. Consistency
  5. Talk About Fears
  6. Get Employee Feedback
  7. Develop Skills
  8. Promotions
  9. Extreme Ownership
  10. Executive + Employee Facetime

Be Transparent with Information

A culture of trust within a team can be established by disseminating new and pertinent information to all team members in a timely manner. Lack of trust becomes apparent when employees are unwilling to collaborate and share information. Developing a team player mentality can help dissolve this kind of toxic competition that sometimes exists within an organization. For example, if a team member attends a seminar or conference, ask the employee to record what they learned and share that information with the collective group. This strategy can help boost knowledge, chemistry and trust within the workplace. If the intent is to help other team members build upon their goals, then a good amount of trust can be built in the workplace. This can be accomplished by supporting the overall success of fellow colleagues. If it shows in the work performance, communication style and attitude, then colleagues will become more trusting of one another. Team building activities can be a great tool to fix any collaboration or communication problems within an organization.

Avoid Office Gossip

This is a tough one because everyone wants to feel like they “fit in,” especially when you spend 8+ hours a day in an enclosed space with people working towards shared goals. But office gossip results in a damaging and toxic working environment. If you’re gossiping with another colleague, then consciously or subconsciously, that person is going to think you’ll talk behind THEIR back. If there are frustrations with a colleague at work, vent outside the office with a friend or family member, and avoid sharing those thoughts with colleagues. Try to solve the problem by speaking with the employee before going to a manager, as this will build more of a rapport with that person. Avoid talking about personal issues such as family problems, marital issues, financial situations, etc. This is only feeding fuel into the gossip fire. It also projects negatively onto you and can be the start of a bad reputation; sometimes even impairing opportunities for advancement. Speaking positively with an uplifting tone will help build trust as colleagues will believe you’re confident and in-control. Plus, who wants to talk with the negative person in the office? To avoid the negativity, no matter how bad the morning may seem, before work, on the drive, or waiting for the bus, think of something positive in your life, keep coming back to it in your mind throughout the day. This will keep your mind on the positive side and your work communication tone positive.

Give Praise + Positive Affirmation

We all want to be told that we’re doing a great job. It’s just a nice boost, and it’s a straightforward way of saying “I trust you and can rely on you.”  As a manager and leader, it’s important to take the time to praise individual and team achievements. Individuals within the team should be encouraged to praise one another for helping and contributing to projects, and career and family achievements. This will help build a positive culture that establishes trust within the team, and also promotes an openness to sharing information. There are many words and phrases that can be used to praise colleagues. Some of the most common praises in the workplace include: “having you on this team makes a huge difference,” “it’s so refreshing to work with you,” and “what can I do to help?” For additional statements of praise, check out these 28 popular phrases.

Consistency

Consistency allows for measurement and accountability—it establishing a quality reputation, and builds trust. In order to have consistency, employees need to have set expectations so that they can measure their success. Providing employees with new initiatives and then measuring the success of those initiatives after three, six, or nine months can be an effective strategy. Another way to build trust through consistency is with accountability. If both employees and leadership establish accountability for their deliverables and goals from the get-go, this will help build successful patterns in work performance. Recurring meetings to cover progress on a specific assignment or project can help keep the team on the right path. For example, here at Team Building Kits, we have 15 minute-long “Stand Up” meetings on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday first thing in the morning. We talk about what we’re working on individually and connect with other co-workers to touch base with them. Bottom line: In order for businesses to succeed, there has to be a track record for success. It’s difficult to establish consistency if an organization is constantly shifting gears or trying new tactics. Staying the course and keeping in line with team objectives and goals will help build a successful, consistent pattern.

Talk About Fears

Discussing employee fears can be a difficult task, as many employees will be apprehensive to talk about them in the first place.

Trust and fear cannot co-exist in the same workplace,” said author and former HR SVP for a Fortune 500 company, Liz Ryan in a Forbes.com article. “In a fear-based workplace, everyone is focused on their daily goals. They have to be because if they miss a goal, they could lose their job. You won’t get collaboration or innovation out of people who are scared to death!”

When employees fear their manager, they become much less likely to be honest about company culture, or issues affecting production. One way to get employees to talk about their fears is to open up a dialogue about the company’s overall culture. A discussion about culture can help gauge the fear-versus-trust level. Employees need to feel that they can contribute in order to trust. If they feel their contribution is valued, then trust will grow naturally.

Get Employee Feedback

Listening is a key component of trust, and obtaining employee feedback is a perfect example of listening. When managers listen to their employees and make the changes they request, employees feel like their knowledge and insights are valued. You can send out an employee survey using online tools like SurveyMonkey or TypeForm to keep things anonymous.

Develop Skills

Developing a strong set of hard and soft skills can be a valuable asset for any employee. By developing hard (writing, math, critical thinking, and other measurable traits) and soft (communication and listening) skills, employees become a well-rounded wealth of information. Every employee has skill sets and qualities that play a key role in productivity and work output. By honing in on acquiring new skills and advancing existing skills, this will reflect in work performance and enhanced communication between colleagues. For example, some workplaces like ad agencies will give each employee a stipend to strengthen a skill they have or to simply pursue a hobby or a passion to develop new skills.

Promotions

Investing in an employee’s individual development can not only help boost production, but can lead to greater trust within a team. Maintaining an open channel of communication and providing honest feedback with a combination of praise and constructive criticism with tangible goals to work towards can help build a more transparent working relationship and trust between employees and management. If an employee understands that management plays an active role in promoting within, they are more likely to seek guidance and understand how they can best prepare for an advanced role. This will help build a greater sense of trust, as employees see that management cares about their ability to succeed. This type of culture is not only good for the employee, but for management and the company as well.

Extreme Ownership

Blaming others for mistakes or misfortunes, even those that taken place outside the workplace can have a negative effect on employee perception and trust. “Blaming stigmatizes people, which causes people to react strongly with emotion when things go wrong,” said change consultant Gustavo Razzetti. Avoid projecting emotions. When we experience roiling emotions, we want someone else to take them away. By projecting these feelings at others, we set them up as bad so we can feel better. Maintaining positive communication and actively seeking solutions to problems can help build a better perception and trust between colleagues. Lead with integrity by keeping your word with colleagues, and set achievable expectations so that integrity is never compromised.If a mistake is made anywhere in your work stream, take ownership for it.

As former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink said in his book, Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win,“Implementing Extreme Ownership requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and developing a plan to overcome challenges are integral to any successful team.”

Executive + Employee Facetime

Trust can go by the wayside when employees have no idea what their executive leadership is working on. Have members of the exec team join in on team meetings with each department once a month or once a quarter. When executives take interest in the work, it shows they value the employees and their performance. In some cases, when executives are able to see how an employe performs, it can be viewed as an opportunity for visibility and promotion. When employees see their executives take part in meetings, it shows that upper management cares about production, and they’re more likely to boost their own production if they know executives are watching and that they care. Another way to build trust through the executive staff is to schedule luncheons with Birthday of the Month employees. This provides an opportunity for executives to better understand employees’ goals and how they contribute to the company. Lunches provide opportunities to discuss topics such as financials, updates on company transitions, new opportunities for professional development, cutting edge technology to improve production, new client updates, and open forums with Q&A’s. Executives can also instill an open door policy, especially for smaller to mid-sized organizations. Executives that instill an open door policy build a transparent culture. Credit Karma founder, Kenneth Lin, operates with an open door policy, which he believes is a “keystone for good company communication.”

Looking to improve upon these elements of trust to create a more productive workplace? Try Team Building Kits!