Client Resources

(Re)Build Trust to Boost Performance

Gallup studies show that people’s trust in leaders and institutions—including businesses, schools, government, and healthcare organizations—has been declining over the past few years.

Less broadly, some data also shows a profound lack of trust in one’s employer. In a March 2021 survey, only 23% of U.S. employees strongly agreed that they trust the leadership of the organization they worked for. And only 33% strongly agreed that their company would never lie to customers or conceal relevant information.

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, which surveyed over 33,000 people in 28 countries, showed a majority of respondents believe that business leaders are purposefully misleading people by saying things that are not true.

Those are some serious trust issues.

Yet trust in the workplace is essential to boosting your team’s engagement, productivity, loyalty and performance.

If the last two years have eroded your employees’ confidence in you or your organization, here’s how to rebuild it:

Remember, trust is a two-way street.

As the adage goes, you get what you give. Sometimes people in a position of authority assume they will be given respect and be trusted by default. But trust is earned. One of the ways to earn trust is by trusting others. Trust your employees to do their jobs without micromanaging them. Trust your colleague to make decisions. Trust your staff to handle their time, workflow, and life balance.

Openly share information.

Strive for transparency by communicating as clearly and honestly as possible. Prevent doubt, confusion, mistrust, and suspicion by sharing information openly and broadly. Share your business beliefs and values as well as facts and policies. Keep staff thoroughly informed about changes, news, and plans. Don’t censor the bad or pretend you know what you don’t. Watch for ways in which communication isn’t transmitting clearly, getting to everyone equally, or isn’t frequent enough.

Build relationships.

It’s tough to trust someone you don’t really know. To foster a trusting culture, you must build relationships within your team, facilitate connectivity among co-workers, and spend time together as people, not just as pieces of an organization. Look for ways to bring staff together, both physically and virtually. Don’t penalize or discourage non-work interactions. That “extra” time spent chatting is making your team closer and, ultimately, improves the quality of the organization and its output.

Allow humanity.

People make mistakes. Accept that, and don’t penalize fallibility. People also get emotional sometimes; be understanding and tolerant of unavoidable human feelings in the workplace. Know when to push and when to take a breather. Watch for signs of burnout. Consistently acknowledge that your workforce is comprised of human beings and you will earn trust and nurture a trusting culture.

Be authentic.

It’s very hard to trust someone if you don’t feel they are being genuine. Know and accept who you are, and then be true to yourself at work. Don’t play a role. Sincerity is part of transparency. Be yourself, consistently.

Ask for help.

It’s okay to show vulnerability and need at work. Leaders are not just top-down directors. Asking for help from your team or seeking collaboration and give-and-take are practices that build trust. Create a “we’re all in this together” atmosphere rather than a rigidly siloed system of responsibility and accountability, and you will foster a more trusting culture.

Give recognition.

Acknowledge and celebrate the achievements or contributions of employees. If people feel seen and appreciated, they are more likely to trust. It’s hard to trust those who don’t seem to value you. Recognition is an important adjunct to relationship building. It reinforces the benefits of trusting in the relationship and believing in the company.

Foster respect.

People need to feel respected and welcome in order to trust an organization or a leader. A workplace that understands and promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion can more easily build a trusting environment. If you’re not sure you are fully implementing DEI strategies, take the time to learn more about what it means to do so and act accordingly. There is a wealth of information and training available on how to create a more respectful and equitable workplace. Review your policies, procedures, and benefits regularly to ensure that they value your staff fairly.

Actions speak louder than words.

As a manager or owner, you must act with integrity. Being decent, fair and honest will earn you trust. But the organization must also be upstanding and “walk its talk.” A culture of trust relies not just on individual members being trusted but also on the business acting in a trustworthy manner to all its stakeholders. Do as you say you will and be consistent in your actions and responses. Consistency builds trust and reassurance.

With trust being in general decline, it’s time to proactively assess your workplace culture. Seeking to rebuild trust within your company will not only help you be healthy and successful, it will also benefit your staffing goals. Statistics show that high-trust organizations attract high-quality employees who work hard, have more energy and less stress, contribute willingly and perform well. Trust in that.

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