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  1. Blog
  2. Management

The Importance of Building Trust at Work

It takes two to tango

Coworkers holding each other's arms in a knot pattern
Photo courtesy of Kraken Images

Building trust is integral for any type of relationship—but it’s especially important at work. 

Dr. Jessica January Behr, a clinical psychologist, says it’s important to build trust in the workplace in order to create a sense of stability and reliability. No one wants to work at a company where backstabbing, low motivation, and disjointed work are the norm. Plus, an HBR study found that people at high-trust companies report 74 percent less stress, 50 percent higher productivity, 29 percent more satisfaction in their lives, and 40 percent less burnout

Here are the pillars of trust, why trust is important at work, how to restore trust when you lose it, and seven ways leaders and managers can build trust with their employees. 

Read more: How to Create a Culture of Accountability in the Workplace

The eight pillars of trust

Trust goes way deeper than just being honest and accountable—there are eight pillars of trust that every employee, manager, and leader should strive to embody in order to create an inclusive, collaborative, and successful workplace. 

1. Clarity

People trust clear expectations and distrust ambiguity. 

2. Compassion

Treat others how you’d like to be treated and practice empathy. 

3. Character

Do what’s right rather than what’s easy. 

4. Competency

Constantly strive to be more efficient, knowledgeable, and open-minded. 

5. Commitment

Show your dedication to a common goal. 

6. Connection

Invest in building and maintaining previous and current relationships. 

7. Contribution

Follow through on promises and show how your actions have led to real results. 

8. Consistency

Don’t neglect small tasks—be consistent with your work ethic through every project.

Read more: 5 Signs Someone Lacks Empathy & How to Practice It at Work

The importance of trust at work

Trust goes two ways—employee to employer and employer to employee, says Behr. “When you prove yourself to be a trustworthy employee, you may be given more responsibility or more freedom, in addition to gaining respect and esteem from your employer and coworkers.”

And when employees trust their employer, that bond can lead to a greater sense of comfort and stability in the workplace. “You may feel more confident and it may enable you to be more communicative with your boss when you have a problem, need assistance, or have new ideas,” says Behr. 

There’s also a tremendous amount of data that reveals clear ties between companies’ trust levels and performance. Employees working in high-trust companies enjoy their jobs 60 percent more, are 70 percent more aligned with their companies’ purpose, feel 66 percent closer to their colleagues, have 11 percent more empathy for their workmates, and feel a greater sense of accomplishment. Moral of the story—trustworthy workplaces ultimately lead to more success. 

How to restore trust 

We all make mistakes, and it’s almost inevitable that you’ll momentarily lose someone’s trust at some point in your career. If you lose someone’s trust, don’t panic. It’s possible to build back up and restore trust—and sometimes your bond can even come out stronger as a result.

“Communication is the key to trust and restoration of trust after a rupture. Sometimes, the greatest bonds actually are built following a rupture, given the opportunity to repair. If a mistake was made and trust broken, communicating clearly and honestly with your boss or colleague is the first step to repairing any damage done,” says Behr. 

Behr suggests that instead of overcompensating or worrying about the perceptions others have of you, it’s always best to “accept feedback, own your mistakes, share what went wrong, ask for support, and share your plan for moving forward.” Showing your understanding and plan to follow through can go a long way to improve damaged professional relationships.

Read more: How to Handle Getting Called Out & Learn from the Mistake

Ways to build trust as a leader

Behr says that managers and leaders can build trust with employees by being as transparent and approachable as possible. Hierarchical structure is inherent in corporate relationships, and because of the built-in hierarchy, “lower level employees may be tentative or fearful to communicate, especially in areas they feel least competent in,” says Behr.

Data shows that 55 percent of CEOs think that a lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth, but few know where or how to start building a culture of trust.

Here are seven ways that leaders and managers can build trust with their employees:

1. Be approachable and show your humanity 

Rather than appearing as if you have never made a mistake or will come down like a hammer if mistakes are made, show your fallibility to your employees. 

2. Provide autonomy to your employees

Offer flexibility and autonomy when it comes to getting work done. A survey found that almost half of employees would give up a 20 percent raise in exchange for greater control over how they work.

3. Set clear expectations of your staff

Again, people mistrust ambiguity, and it’s easier for employees to trust their managers when they know exactly what they’re responsible for and what’s expected of them. 

4. Reward good behavior or performance in public

Science shows that recognition has the largest effect on trust when it occurs immediately after a goal has been met, and when it’s unexpected, personal, and public.

5. Provide constructive feedback, check-ins, and opportunities for collaboration 

This ensures your staff feel safe to share their strengths, weaknesses, and any concerns with you. 

6. Be transparent about company goals

Only 40 percent of employees report that they’re well informed about their company’s goals, strategies, and tactics. Being left in the dark and not working toward a common goal can cause stress and hinder efficient teamwork. 

7. Provide team-building activities and lunch and learns for your employees to bond. 

A study found that software engineers in Silicon Valley who connected with their coworkers and collaborated with them on projects earned more respect and trust from their peers and were more productive. 

Read more: 6 Meaningful Team Building Activities to Bring Everyone Together

About our source

Jessica January Behr, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and the director and founder of Behr Psychology. She is psychodynamically trained and influenced, with a patient-centered and eclectic therapeutic approach, and provides treatment for mood, adjustment, personality and addictive disorders, as well as for serious mental illness.

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