In a work culture where one out of three people don’t trust their employers, it shows that trust is hard to build and easy to destroy. But what is trust, exactly?
Trust is the sense of security and confidence in dealing with others. When you trust someone, you know they will keep their word, have consistent behavior, and be dependable.
There are two different kinds of trust: practical and emotional. Practical trust is the trust earned when you work hard and meet deadlines. In other words, when you say you’ll do something, you’ll actually do it. Emotional trust requires emotional intelligence, or the ability to understand and use your emotions positively and constructively. You use emotional intelligence to create bonds, build relationships, and network with others.
Why is trust important?
Low trust, especially in an employer, leads to fracturing of the team. It leads to workers who do the bare minimum and quietly look for other places to work—and high turnover doesn’t allow a “trust culture” to thrive. Having your employees’ trust—and having your team trust each other—contributes to a culture of values and teamwork, increasing productivity. A study conducted in 2017 showed that people at companies with a trust culture experienced 74% less stress, 50% higher productivity, and 40% less burnout.
When people trust each other, they feel comfortable relying on one another and are motivated to work together.
How to build trust in the workplace
Think of trust like building a house. You need a solid foundation before putting up the walls. Trust isn’t built overnight; it’s built gradually, over time. Whether you already have a trust culture and are looking to improve it, or are looking for a fresh start, build trust being intentional with the following behaviors.
Setting expectations and communicating
For trust to work, everyone needs to be on the same page. Ensure you set expectations and communicate with your team whenever needed: company policy changes and project deadlines, for example. Things will run smoothly when everyone knows what to expect.
Being transparent and honest
It’s tempting when you make a mistake to sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened. But as awkward as it may be to tell the truth, being transparent and honest is a trust-building behavior. Let your team know if you missed a deadline on a project or accidentally sent a newsletter a week before it was set to go out, and let them know how you’ll do better next time. Being honest lets people know they’re important to you.
Offering support and acceptance
People need to feel like they can ask questions or share concerns without worrying about negative repercussions. Have an open-door policy, which creates a comfortable environment for employees to come to you and share feedback, challenges at work, or personal matters. And be careful to not dismiss their concerns when they do bring you something of importance to them. Listen and work with them to find a solution, whether offering to help on a project if they seem overwhelmed or helping to prioritize their to-do list.
Showing that you care and respect them makes people feel welcome and safe at work. This creates an environment that rewards honesty and peer support, reducing the opportunity for people to struggle in silence and increasing the chances that issues will be resolved before they grow to negatively impact the team or the organization.
Admitting when you don’t know something
If someone asks for your help, and you don’t have that specific skill set (yet), you may feel pressure to say yes anyway, because you don’t want to disappoint anyone.
But it’s better to admit when you don’t know something. It doesn’t make you seem weak—quite the opposite. In fact, it starts everything off on the right foot. You have a team with different skills, experiences, and strengths, so use them! Ask for their expert guidance. This shows you respect and value what they bring to the table.
Building solid and real relationships
You want your team to have your back and to talk to you about anything. To do that, you need to build solid and authentic relationships with them. Find out what drives them as individuals, show an interest in their personal lives, ask what they’re doing this weekend, and celebrate important milestones like birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings. Taking the time to know your team as people shows them that you care.
Take the long-term approach
It takes time to build trust. Long-term planning and patience are needed. You can build trust with your team from day one by being honest and trustworthy, admitting mistakes, doing everything you say you will do, and being honest about what you can’t do. Doing this builds trust in the workplace, and when your employees see you displaying trust, they will follow your example.
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