How to Build Trust in the Workplace

  • Andrew
  • April 16, 2019
  • 11 min

Without trust in the workplace, our offices are uncommunicative, sullen and inefficient. Trust is important in any relationship, but when we’re in an environment in which we must rely on others to achieve a common goal – it’s essential. In this article, we’ll discuss why workplace trust is so important, how to build it within your office and key takeaways to ensure you have the confidence of your team.

The Causes Of Workplace Trust Issues

If you’ve ever worked in an environment where you didn’t feel trusted, you already know why this issue is so important. In a global survey from EY, it was found that only 46% of professionals trust their current employer. This is a staggering shortcoming when we consider the harm a lack of trust inflicts upon the workplace.

Poor workplace trust is caused by:

  • Not delivering on promises.
  • Failure to provide job security and opportunity for growth.
  • Unfair compensation and benefits.
  • Lack of transparency.
  • Poor communication.
  • Giving preferential treatment to certain employees or departments.
  • Micromanagement.

Elements of Workplace Trust

In her Ted Talk (you can also find the full video below), Frances Frei of the Harvard Business School gives great insight into how trust works. She breaks workplace trust down into three essential component parts. If any of these factors are experiencing problems, “trust is threatened.”

If you don’t have time to watch the whole Ted Talk, the three parts of trust are:

  1. Authenticity. Rather than to be what you believe is expected of you, Frei implores us to present our authentic self to others. She states, “if we hold back who we are, we’re less likely to be trusted.” Put simply, be yourself!
  2. Sound logic. Problems with logic take two forms; the quality of your logic and the ability to communicate it. While the former requires more attention than we can give it here, the latter can easily be improved upon. She suggests that when trying to relay important information to others, “start your point in a crisp half-sentence”, then provide the supporting evidence. This gets your ideas across instantly without the danger of being interrupted or misunderstood.
  3. Empathy. Frei believes the primary cause for trust issues is a perceived lack of empathy in our co-workers and employers. The remedy for this is to be present with others, engage with them and – if nothing else – put away your cell phone when you’re with them!

Why Trust In The Workplace Is Important

When 84% of employees connect their feelings about the workplace to their relationship with management, there is clear motivation to ensure you have a workplace culture built on mutual appreciation and faith in others. Such advantages include:

  • Employee productivity increases by up to 50%. In a Harvard Business Review study, it was found that workplace trust has a huge influence on job performance. When compared with “low-trust companies”, employees who claimed to feel trusted at work reported that they were 74% less stressed and had 106% more energy.
  • Increased employee engagement and decreased turnover. If employees feel distrusted, they’ll stop being engaged and start treating the job simply as a means to a paycheck. Eventually, this will lead to them searching for a position elsewhere where they feel more confidence is placed in their abilities. What’s more, high staff turnover also has a detrimental effect on employee trust – it’s a vicious cycle!
  • Improved communication. If we feel our opinions and actions aren’t valued or taken seriously, we stop sharing and innovating in fear of being dismissed or even ridiculed. A high level of trust facilitates the smooth exchange of information and ideas.
  • Greater financial returns. Interaction Associates found that high-trust companies are more than 2½ times more likely to be high performing revenue organizations than low-trust companies. This is a result of all the points mentioned above. When staff work more effectively, they are more likely to achieve business goals. Customer loyalty and retention, market position and profit growth are all positively affected.

On the Basis of Trust: New Work and the Digital Revolution

Of course, the present isn’t the only concern for leaders and HR. The age of digitization is set to change up 30% of the tasks that employees currently do, and thus how they work as well. This reality requires workplaces to become more adaptable and interactive so they can flexibly change with future roles and needs. Making this new world of work possible is a basis of trust.

For employers to give employees the freedom they need to own and finish new tasks, they have to trust them to make good decisions. For teams that need to collaborate, trust is the lubricant that lets them pass tasks between each other. Trust influences more than the bottom line. It is integral to human interaction and is at the heart of New Work and the strategies companies need to be successful in the future of work.

Want to know more about New Work?

Click here for all the information you need to make your workplace ready for the future.

Workplace Trust Checklist

Here are some questions to ask yourself to see if you’re fostering a trusting work environment. If your answer to any of these questions is “no”, you know what you need to work on!

Do you…

  • …always admit to your mistakes?
  • …follow through on your promises?
  • …discourage office gossip?
  • …allow employees to work without supervision?
  • …listen to and respect others’ ideas and opinions?
  • …give and receive feedback?
  • …show a willingness to learn from others?
  • …congratulate others on their success?
  • …share your intentions about important decisions?
  • …have the same standards for everyone in the office?
  • …advocate for fair pay and benefits?

How To Build Trust At Work

If you think there may be problems with trust in your office, it’s important to resolve any issues as soon as possible. A lack of trust stokes the fire of workplace negativity and, if certain employees or departments are unhappy, this can spread quickly throughout the whole company! Here are some steps to help build and maintain trust in the workplace:

  1. Be transparent.
    Depending on your position within a team, this can take different forms. For higher-level managers, it can mean keeping your employees informed about important decisions concerning the company’s future and changes, which will affect daily operations. For team leaders, it can include speaking candidly about employee performance, what you expect of your team and what you’re happy about. One-on-one meetings provide a great opportunity for this.
  2. Take responsibility for your mistakes.
    Nobody’s perfect, and so taking responsibility for your errors demonstrates to your team that making a mistake isn’t the end of the world. This creates an open atmosphere in which employees know it’s alright to be vulnerable and aren’t too scared to act because they’re living in fear of being wrong! Furthermore, passing the blame onto somebody else will only damage the trust of others. The key here is, be honest.
  3. Give and accept feedback.
    We’re not mind-readers, so opening up and providing your co-workers with constructive criticism is imperative to ensure you’re all on the same page. However, it’s just as important – if not more so – to show you’re willing to accept feedback and that you know there’s always room for personal improvement. Employees will have much more trust in you if they know they can speak openly without causing offense.
  4. Show Respect.
    There are many different ways of doing this. Show respect to others by acknowledging their opinions and ideas – really listen to them – be on time when you have a meeting, and show respect by treating others exactly how you’d expect to be treated!
  5. Be Consistent.
    While each employee has their own set of needs and wants, it’s important not to give special treatment to any particular people or departments within the company. Others in the office are bound to feel distrusted if they realize double standards are resulting in them receiving worse treatment or benefits than their colleagues.
  6. Don’t micromanage.
    Nothing is more likely to make an employee feel distrusted than micromanagement. Obviously, you need to make sure your employees have the tools and knowledge they require to succeed, and it’s important they know they can always ask for help if needed. However, show that you have faith in others’ abilities by allowing them to work in their own way.
  7. Organize team building events.
    It’s oldie but goodie. In the office, employees may feel too guarded or busy to really get to know their co-workers. As such, arranging out-of-office events is a great way for everyone to socialize in a more relaxed way. Employees will bring this new found team spirit back into work on Monday!

Key Takeaways

  • Employees who trust their co-workers perform drastically better than those who don’t.
  • The best way to gain the trust of your employees is to be transparent, honest, and to give and receive feedback.
  • Among other things, a lack of trust is caused by a failure to follow through on promises, double standards, and micromanagement.
  • Companies with a high level of trust have greater financial returns than those who don’t.

Watch Frances Frei here 🎓:

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