Manager’s Guide to Building Workplace Trust - EmployeeConnect HRIS
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Manager’s Guide to Building Workplace Trust

Manager’s Guide to Building Workplace Trust

Building trust in the workplace delivers solid business benefits by fostering a more productive culture. In today’s competitive landscape, some people hold back their best ideas when they don’t trust their managers, supervisors and fellow workers. One report found that the top 10 percent of companies where workers agree that they trust their leaders and organisations are 2.5 times more likely to be leaders in generating revenue. That’s because of the following benefits of building trust in the workplace:

  • Workplace trust must be mutual to be effective.
  • Real workplace trust fosters creativity and learning.
  • Trust and teamwork can build strong relationships among workers and create bonds of loyalty and support.
  • Trust encourages better conflict resolution.
  • People who trust each other are more willing to take calculated risks.
  • Building trust in the workplace fosters a culture where employees feel more fulfilled and engaged.
  • Teamwork fosters a sense of ownership and a greater stake in company results.


What Is Workplace Trust?

Building trust in the workplace includes both emotional and logical elements. Emotionally, you trust certain people to behave in a fair way and not to take advantage of any personal vulnerabilities or confidential information. Organisational trust and workplace trust involve logic and predictability. People internalise their experiences to build predictive models of how their companies will respond to certain conditions. For example, a business slowdown might mean layoffs. Past behaviour might indicate that layoffs would be confined to certain performance levels and those most recently hired by the company. Workplace trust means trust in managers, policies, products, services and employee programs.

Workplace trust means that workers can reliably predict what the company will do in common business scenarios. 65 percent of respondents in one survey would choose a better boss over a raise in pay. It’s obvious that trust is a critical characteristic of successful companies where employees are satisfied.

Trust in the workplace always involves an exchange between a person and a manager, executive, peer, associate or organisation. The exchange might be something that’s expected in the future such as a raise, promotion, commission, recognition, etc. It can also mean something immediate such as a paycheck, completion of a project or other duty. Trust and loyalty are not the same, but many leaders mistake one for the other. The characteristics of workplace trust include:

  • Fostering an environment where innovation and creativity are valued
  • Pursuing two-way communications with real conversations about workplace issues
  • Creating a business ecosystem of accountability and development of problem-solving skills
  • Demonstrating personal commitment to success by challenging the status quo
  • Seeking genuine opinions instead of rubber-stamp agreements
  • Building a culture where team members can rely on each other
  • Following well-established procedures for handling information

In today’s competitive business culture, information is often valuable currency. It’s easy for managers, executives and aspiring entrepreneurs to use the flow of information for competitive advantages. That’s why workplace trust becomes so important in the digital age. Dr John F. Helliwell, one of the world’s most respected economists, discovered that trust is critical in fostering workplace engagement and living a satisfied life. Most workers rate their fellow workers at an average of 7.5 on a scale of 1 to 10. An article posted at reports that 82 percent of respondents in a survey don’t trust their bosses to tell the simple truth.

The Scientific Basis of Trust

Oxytocin has been identified in many scientific studies as the molecule that controls the level of trust in people and animals.  Savvy leaders understand the scientific and personal aspects of trust in the workplace. In the PcW 2016 study, 55 percent of CEOs felt that a lack of trust threatened to achieve company goals.  People at high-trust companies reported 74 percent less stress, 50 percent higher productivity, 106 percent more energy, 76 percent higher levels of engagement and 13 percent fewer ‘sick’ days.

You can decide to trust someone in as little as 33 milliseconds according to this research, and nasal sprays of oxytocin for research subjects revealed that the hormone made people more generous, cooperative, compassionate and trusting. Common behaviours that trigger oxytocin production include:

  • Emotional stories, songs and videos: These heartwarming occurrences can raise oxytocin rates up to 47 percent higher than baseline averages.
  • Touching: Hugs, fist bumps, high-fives and other kinds of physical contact can build workplace trust, but some care must be exercised to ensure that contact isn’t misinterpreted as sexual harassment.
  • Making eye contact: Making eye contact with others has long been recognised as a key to successful speaking.
  • Laughter: Hearty laughter – real and unforced – can foster workplace trust by triggering oxytocin production.
  • Recognising opposing points-of-view: Showing empathy has always shown leadership. Leaders use empathy to understand others who tend to broaden their own views and trust those who try to understand them.


Connection Between Trust and Employee Engagement

Edelman published a trust barometer that found only 20 percent of people believed business leaders told the truth. The survey also identified the five key performance areas that help to build workplace trust: engagement, products and services, integrity, purpose and operations. Employee engagement is crucial because employees are a company’s most valuable resource and best ambassadors. Employees who are disengaged don’t work to their maximum potential and refuse to share their best tips and work secrets.

Consequences when There Is No Trust

When there is no workplace trust, everyone works for his or her own interests instead of the company’s or team’s interests. These workers don’t respect their managers and refuse to work as cohesive teams. Lack of respect fosters spreading false rumours and misinformation. Employees have no company or brand loyalty, so it becomes almost impossible to retain and recruit top talent.

How to Build Trust in the Workplace

The key to building workplace trust is honesty, and transparency runs a close, second-place finish. Managers, executives and HR staff take the lead in building trust by creating a company culture where trust can flourish. You can observe any company or organisation and find areas or teams where exceptional work results are consistently achieved. These people shine because they work in areas where trust is important and institutionalised. Ideas flourish, and leaders show the way with actions instead of just lip-service. The best ways to build workplace trust in any organisation include:

  1. Be Transparent No matter how honest and trustworthy a manager might be, guarding information and company secrets fosters paranoia and mistrust.
  2. Put Your Team First Workers trust managers who go to bat for them against entrenched business interests.
  3. Communicate Regular communication keeps team members informed about issues that concern them. It’s a great relief to trust your manager to keep you informed about things that you should know.
  4. Provide Constructive Feedback Regular feedback helps people to grow and develop.
  5. Ask for Honest Feedback You can’t expect honest feedback if you’re not willing to ask for it yourself.
  6. Be Available The meme of the executive who says that his doors are always open before rushing to his limo is a common negative conception shared by many rank-and-file workers. Prove these critics wrong by being available. That’s one of the best practices for building trust in the workplace.
  7. Be Consistent Showing consistency is one of the simplest ways of building workplace trust. It’s important to explain how circumstances differ when situations seem similar but aren’t.
  8. Admit Mistakes Simply admitting mistakes is a strong method of fostering trust in the workplace.
  9. Practice Empathy You’ll find that empathy gets often mentioned when discussing workplace trust. It’s critical to put yourself in another’s circumstances, which defines empathy if you want him or her to trust you. Fostering empathy builds trust in the workplace.


Build Trust and Foster Trust in Your ‘Build.’

Building trust in the workplace doesn’t just depend on how managers and bosses act. Workplace trust comes from personal trust and organisational trust. To build trust, encourage employees to trust your ‘build’ – where build refers to the company’s digital applications, industry reputation, company culture and employee-facing technology. Companies need the right infrastructure to inspire workplace trust. No matter how much an employee might trust his or her manager, it’s insufficient if employees can’t access their records, get notified about in-house job openings, apply for training programs and cross-train in other areas. Red tape inhibits workplace trust. Workplace trust comes from confidence in your company’s policies, organisational transparency, self-service options to manage careers and personal trust in managers, peers, associates and executives.

Ari Kopoulos

CEO at EmployeeConnect