How to Improve Trust in the Workplace

by Chris Young

improve trust in the workplaceResearch shows that a trusting workplace enhances an employee’s work ability, productivity, and level of happiness. From the CEO of the company to the employee team member who sits behind their desk at the call center, they all consider trust in the workplace to be a priority. However, considering and doing are two different things. So why are few companies doing something about it?

Moreover, how do you know if you are in a workplace that does not have vulnerability-based trust:

  • Employee team members dread participating in meetings.
  • Employees do not use their skills to their fullest potential.
  • Grudges are held.
  • Delegation is minimal - Employees carry their own weight, and their own weight only.
  • Constructive conflict does not occur.  What needs to be said is not.
  • Employees do not show vulnerability when they make a mistake. 

According to the latest survey by Watson Wyatt, just 39% of U.S. employees trust those higher up the ladder. Another survey by Development Dimensions International gives emphasis to this outlook. They discovered that 99% of employees feel that trust in the workplace is a big deal; however, only 29% acknowledge a high-level of trust in their companies.

When there is a lack of vulnerability-based trust amongst co-workers, problems and possible productive ideas are not communicated. Many issues may go unaddressed that result in poorly completed projects, missed deadlines, and unsatisfied customers. Ultimately, one of the highest costs of low trust is high employee turnover.

How to Improve Trust in the Workplace for Leader and Employees

  • Break bread together.  Have periodic lunches and other group activities to help employee team members connect informally.  
  • Build trust by building employee relationships.  Get employees together and have them answer questions about themselves to other team members.  Learning small things, like their favorite past time, enables team members to relate to one another.  This ultimately helps build trust.
  • Gather insight from employees using a 360° Feedback system. This tool will enable you to make improvements where needed.  It is an opportunity to fix the areas that are holding your team back from trusting one another.
  • Give employees responsibility and do not constantly “look over their shoulder.” Employees with autonomy are happier and more engaged.
  • Support employees if there is a problem, of course, only if they have earned that trust and it does not conflict with company policy.
  • Have one "code of conduct".  Be sure that office procedures are fair and apply to everyone regardless of their position within the company.  When employees feel entitled (and actually are entitled to more benefits), others see this.  Employees will not trust those entitled or you for letting this behavior persist.
  • Let employees know you care about them. Businesses leaders who help their employees feel that they matter and are a part of the team induce a feeling of security. Employees who are listened to and feel authentically cared for will trust their leaders.
  • Expect and model candor.  Employees must be honest with one another. Honestly sharing sincere information even if it is not to their advantage is a sign of veracity. Employees must have candor and feel comfortable being candid.
  • Understand employees using a personality assessment.  Personalityassessmentsarevaluabletoolsthatcanbe used to understand behaviors, motivators, and skills of each employee.

Trust and output have a mutually beneficial relationship. Where there is a lack of trust, there is lack of effectiveness and productivity. Vulnerability-based trust works both ways, for leaders and their team members. 

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