Within any relationship, trust is a fundamental ingredient if you wish for it to be successful. No relationship, whether it’s one between friends, partners, spouses or colleagues, can thrive if the two parties don’t trust each other. But what exactly is trust, and how can it be developed?
As a general rule, trust is where two parties expect the other to act in a way that is mutually beneficial. Within the workplace, trust is therefore an essential element when it comes to effective teamwork, communication and productivity. Trust can lead to stronger working relationships, as well as an enviable company culture.
So how do you foster trust in your workplace? As there is a degree of vulnerability involved in trusting someone, we tend to agree that trust must be earned. It also has to be sustained - once trust has been broken, it can be hard to gain it back.
Overall, trust helps to keep employees engaged, ensures teams are integrated, and makes challenging conversations easier. You therefore need to ask yourself, is there trust within your work environment?
Types of Trust
As we better understand trust in the workplace, we can break down the types of trust more easily. An example of this is a model from Michelle and Dennis Reina, who identified three main types of trust - capability, character, and communication trust.
- Capability Trust: This type of trust is about competence. Trust will grow when someone is confident that the other person has the relevant knowledge, skills and abilities to complete a task.
- Character Trust: As the name suggests, this type of trust is about the character, or traits of an individual. Can they be depended upon to do what they say they will?
- Communication Trust: With communication trust, you have to be willing to tell the truth and admit when you’ve made a mistake. You should also be happy to share information, as well as maintain confidentiality.
If you have complete trust in someone, you will believe in their capabilities, their character, and their ability to communicate regularly and truthfully.
Building Trust in the Workplace
Now that you have a better understanding of the types of trust, the question is how do you develop trust within your business? We’ve outlined five key ways your management team can create a culture of trust in the workplace below:
1. Listen to Your Employees
The first step towards trust is usually communication, and it’s hard to overstate the importance of truly listening to your employees. You can show that you were actively listening by paraphrasing what you’ve just heard back to the individual - that way you can ensure that there are no misunderstandings.
It’s also important to give your employees the opportunity to speak up. Perhaps hold forums which allow staff to ask questions, voice concerns, and suggest ideas. You may furthermore wish to implement a variety of feedback tools, such as online surveys, which allow people to submit anonymous feedback.
2. Be Honest and Consistent
It can often be tempting to tell people what they want to hear, especially if it will prevent conflict. However, your staff will appreciate you being honest with them, even if the sentiments aren’t positive. Honesty and transparency are a huge part of fostering trust in the workplace.
You also have to be consistent. If you’re not always completely honest, your employees won’t be able to trust that you’re being sincere. Keeping to your commitments and being as transparent as possible have to be a fundamental part of your work ethic.
3. Model the Behaviour You Wish to See
You can usually get a good idea of a company’s culture through the leader’s behaviour. So if you wish for your employees to trust and respect you, you need to model the behaviours you’re seeking. You have the ability to drive results, simply by pushing yourself.
Let’s say that your business particularly values teamwork. If you wish to encourage this, you should start collaborating with each team, and requesting that certain projects are spread across different departments.
4. Be Supportive
Another part of building trust is supporting your colleagues, and making them feel appreciated. This is particularly true when your employees make mistakes - simply blaming them and not helping them move forward won’t accomplish anything. Showing understanding in such situations will go a long way in building trust as a leader.
Building a support network within your organisation is important too. Make sure that you have systems and team members in place which will provide a supportive environment.
5. Evaluate Often
You can foster accountability and help to encourage honest dialogue by making these processes a part of your culture. For instance, you can evaluate each project and ensure that the next steps are followed up, by going through past projects in team meetings.
When you do evaluate a project, look at the positives, negatives, and things that can still be changed. Then, once you’ve determined the next steps, you will need to track the new deadlines and milestones of the project.
Are You Building a Trust Culture?
If you’re concerned that your business doesn't have trust at its core, you can ask yourself the following questions, and make any necessary changes:
- Am I listening to my employees and valuing their opinions?
- Do I use the ideas of others in my decision making process?
- Am I always honest and transparent with my employees?
- Do I treat everyone with the level of respect and dignity I’d expect to be treated with?
- Do I set a good example for my colleagues?
- Am I supporting my employees to the best of my ability?
- Am I evaluating each project and making necessary adjustments?
Overall, trust must be earned, and you need to make a conscious effort to build up the trust within your organisation. And keep in mind that it’s worth the effort, as once trust is lost, it can be incredibly difficult to get it back.