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Building trust in the workplace


Think about culture


An organisation’s overriding culture can play a big role in the level of trust employees have in their leaders. A culture averse to open communication, or one that appears to punish failure or promote excessive employee competitiveness, is likely to increase the overriding sense of stress and unease individuals feel while at work. This stress is certainly not conducive to building trust.


Be honest about mistakes


Honesty is, of course, a key element in building trust, and there are few places where this is truer than when it comes to those in charge being open about mistakes. Whether it’s a poor investment decision, or a misguided hiring choice, being ready to own the decision and acknowledge the shortcomings demonstrates considerable integrity and helps establish immediate trust in your character.


Don’t break promises


Nothing will break trust quicker than promising one thing and doing another. Employees will hold you to your word if your promise something particular, and one let-down is likely to spell a terminal decline in the trust they place in your leadership. The lesson? Don’t promise something you can’t deliver.


Consistency is king


Employees need to see consistency in their leaders. If priorities and directives change from day-to-day, they have limited time and ever-dwindling reason to trust that the directions you give will be the same by next week. The same is true if your mood and attitude at work vary markedly – employees who don’t know which ‘version’ of their leader will appear are likely to have lower trust in any one of them.


Make trust part of your development One critical way to build your awareness of trust is to make it an actual part of your own leadership development. Consider aspects of training & development that actively improve your perceived credibility and reliability, and pay due attention to employee survey results that speak directly to the level of trust employees have in your leadership. Then be sure to act on what you learn!
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