How to Build Trust with Employees and Colleagues

We spend a third of our days at work on average. This work environment can either enhance or diminish employee morale and productivity in your company. Learning how to build trust with employees can improve productivity, engagement, and confidence.

Trust in any organisation works on three levels: at a company level in terms of culture, at a team level in regard to the relationships among the members, and at an interpersonal level between two people.

You can’t always control the level of trust in your organisation as a whole, but you can definitely influence it by building trust in your immediate work environment. This may be your department, your work team or your coworkers in the cubicles around yours. Building trust with employees in a smaller unit where you have more control helps to propagate trust in the larger organisation.

If an employee doesn’t trust their manager, the company suffers. Sure, ruling through fear works, but the employee will simply do the bare minimum amount of work needed to keep their job. Building trust with employees is key to beating your competition, not to mention increasing employee retention.

So how can managers build trust with employees and colleagues as well?

Ask your employees what’s most important to them

One of the most overlooked strategies for building trust with employees the most simple. Just ask! Take the time to ask questions about what is most important to your employees for building trust, how they prefer to be recognised, as well as how they like to receive feedback and prefer to communicate.

The mere act of expressing sincere interest in their views goes a long way in building trust with employees as it communicates to them how important they are to you. Come up with insightful questions that indicate to the employee that you are not looking for simple surface level answers.

Listen effectively to what your employees have to say

It is not enough to just ask though, managers need to actually listen to employees’ answers with respect and full attention and then acknowledge and act upon their responses. Make sure to follow up later on and get their feedback on your efforts to implement the ideas and preferences they shared with you.

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Also remember to exhibit empathy and sensitivity to the needs of your employees. Trust grows out of the belief that you can understand and relate to how they feel and what they go through. Without empathy and sensitivity, this trust-building strategy of asking your questions can actually backfire. The last thing you want is your employees feeling like you’re just doing this to tick it off your to-do list.

Keep your employees informed

Keep your employees in the loop by giving them as much information as you can comfortably divulge as soon as possible in any situation. Employees typically do not like surprise reviews, news or anything serious in nature from managers. The only surprise most employees want at work is birthday cake.

Managers can build trust with employees with regular communication, scheduled updates regarding work performance, and by being transparent about the health of the organisation. An employee needs to know that they can rely on their manager for the truth at all times. Work is already stressful enough, your employees shouldn’t also deal with the anxiety of not knowing what’s going on with the company.

Offer your own trust first

As Ernest Hemingway said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” If you want your employees to trust you, try trusting them first. Give them a task, even an easy one, and let them complete it on their own. This simple gesture will go a very long way. If they believe you have enough confidence in them to leave them to their own devices, this can help build trust with employees.

Offer your employees freedom by avoiding micromanaging them. Whenever you can, give them the opportunity to manage themselves. Allow them to lead some performance review sessions, and ask them to evaluate themselves and modify their KPIs. This creates leaders within your organisation organically and develops a sense of personal accountability, which results in a relationship of trust.

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Lead your employees with integrity

You can build trust with employees as a leader by keeping your word with them. Let them see your integrity in action each and every day that they show up to work. Say what you are going to do, and then do exactly what you say. Show them you are leading in alignment with the values of the organisation.

Act with integrity and keep commitments. If you can’t keep a commitment, explain what’s happening in the situation without delay. Supervisors who show that they never forget about their promises easily build trust with employees and inspire more cooperation from them with fewer complaints.

Also remember to protect the interests of all employees and be fair to everyone. Don’t talk about absent employees or allow others to place blame, call names, or point fingers. It is much easier to build trust with employees when they know you are unbiased even when they aren’t around to defend themselves.

Lead your employees with competence

As a leader, it is very important that you display competence in supervising and other work tasks. Know what you’re talking about, and if you don’t know, just admit it. Nothing builds trust with employees more effectively than managers owning up to not knowing something and pledging to find out.

The worst reaction occurs when a manager pretends to know and offers faulty information. Employees can forgive a lack of knowledge but may never forgive a lie. And even if they do forgive it, they are less likely to forget it and this can lead to them second-guessing every decision you make henceforth.

In Summary

You build and maintain trusting relationships and a culture of trust in your workplace one step at a time through every action you take and every interaction you have with your coworkers and employees. Trust may be fragile, but it has the capacity to grow strong over time with the deliberate efforts above.

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald is a freelance writer with a pen that is keen for entrepreneurship, business and technology. When he isn't writing insightful articles on employee engagement and corporate culture, Gerald can be found writing for a number of media outlets.