• Aida Xie

Building Trust at Work

To attempt to define trust here, a deeper version involving more of an emotional response is needed. This includes feelings towards employers such as knowing that leaders are on “their side”, they will be treated fairly and with respect and setbacks will not be viewed with particularly negative consequences. Both sides of the trust coin impact a leader’s ability to inspire and motivate employees. When people trust you, they have confidence in your decisions. Even in times of uncertainty, they will be influenced by your leadership. That is because they expect you to do what you say you will do. Aligning your words and actions is an essential pillar for building trust in the workplace and, ultimately, for an organization’s success. We often find employees say that what leaders say and do has the most impact on their perception of an organization. When there is a disconnect between a leader’s words and actions, employees are more likely to become disengaged and less committed to the company.

Actions matter most if you want to earn employees’ trust and engage them in the organization. You cannot always control the level of trust in your company as a whole, but you can act in ways that promote trust in your immediate work environment which can be within your team or unit at the beginning. Starting with the leader, it takes involvement at every level to create a deep bond of trustworthiness that motivates employees to put forth effort required to make their organization successful. Building trust in a smaller unit where you have some control helps to propagate trust in the larger organization. Managers who trust each other's coworkers tend to extend their trust to the larger organization as well. This will, in turn, evoke trust in others. Here are some ways to build trust in your workplace.

Keep everyone informed

Provide as much information as you can comfortably divulge as soon as possible in any situation. Even telling employees that you are not sure or that you will find out if more information is available will add to an environment of trust.

Be honest and supportive

Even when it’s difficult, tell the truth and not just what you think people want to hear. Understand what employees need to know and communicate facts while being considerate of their effort and mindful of their feelings. Showing support and understanding for your team members, even when mistakes are made. It goes a long way in building trust as a leader.

Protect the interests of all employees

Do not talk about absent employees or allow others to place blame, call names, or point fingers. Employees learn to trust when they know that their manager does not allow an environment in which other employees can gossip about or backstab them.

Be consistent

Consistently doing what you say you will do builds trust over time, it cannot be something you do only occasionally. Keeping commitments must be the essence of your behavior, in all relationships, day after day and year after year.

Adopt an open door policy

Every manager's door is open to every employee when such a policy is in place. It helps to encourage open communication, feedback, and discussion about any matter of importance to an employee. That will help to address potential problems quickly, without letting them fester.

Build in accountability

When you and other leaders acknowledge your mistakes as well as successes, employees see you as credible and will follow your lead. You can encourage honest dialogue and foster accountability by building in processes that become part of the culture, such as an evaluation of every project (positives, negatives, things to amend) or a status report and next steps in each meeting agenda (tracking deadlines and milestones).

Listen with respect and full attention

Exhibit empathy and sensitivity to the needs of staff members. Trust grows out of the belief that you can understand and relate. This trust is encouraged by positive listening behaviors such as listen actively and check for understanding by paraphrasing what you have heard. Use a variety of feedback tools to ensure everyone has the chance for their voice to be heard.

Destroying then rebuilding trust allows you to look at what does not work to create a trusting work environment, but we do not need to go there. Instead, start building trust from the beginning of your relationship with each new employee. Make sure that your culture gives them an early sense that yours is a workplace they can trust. Trust must be earned and it may be fragile but it has the capacity to grow strong over time. We are trusted because of our character and our way of being, not because of our polished exteriors or expertly crafted communications.

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