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Trust is about predictability. It is perhaps the most basic tenet of social behavior. The more predictable someone is, the more you know them. The more you know a person, the more you like them. This is true in both personal and business life.

However, business life offers an element of formality missing from ordinary social life. There is also an element of high stakes and sometimes implicit fear that complicate the picture of trust and make trust in the workplace more difficult to develop. Years ago, business dealings were done over a handshake. Now any business relationship is developed over pages of signed legal documents.

If employees don’t trust each other or their managers, collaboration and communication stagnates. Employee engagement drops. Productivity falls. The workplace becomes unpleasant, even toxic.

According to a survey cited by Forbes**, 45% of employees say they do not trust their leaders and that the lack of trust is the biggest issue impacting their work performance. Only 11% of employees feel that managers show consistency between their words and their actions.

Building trust in the workplace begins with the leadership. A study of trust reported in Psychology Today (2012)* concluded that leaders who build trust operate with three basic principals.

  • They give trust first.
  • They effectively communicate.
  • They “authentically show up.”

The article goes on to say that effective leaders understand workplace trust and grow trust in 10 basic ways.

  1. 1. They are good at what they do. Competence on the job is a “litmus test for believability.”
  2. 2. They are passionate about their work. Enthusiasm for a goal inspires trust by making actions directed and predictable.
  3. 3. They operate with self-awareness. They don’t commit what they can’t control or make impossible promises. They don’t fail to own their shortcomings or mistakes. They are careful with their words.
  4. 4. They care about people around them. They can be counted on to act with compassion.
  5. 5. They want the best for others around them. They provide appropriate challenges and opportunities.
  6. 6. They listen. They are able to withhold judgment until the dialog is complete. They embrace differences, thereby facilitating openness.
  7. 7. They have a robust perspective that goes beyond immediate crises and situations.
  8. 8. They manage direction and work, but do not micromanage people. They “leave the fun in work by setting direction, not dictating details.”
  9. 9. They say thank you. They acknowledge contributions and efforts.
  10. 10. They see beyond themselves. They perceive the workplace as more than their own advancement and work to achieve larger goals.

Building trust can help to retain top talent and improve workplace culture. A high level of trust in the workplace makes for a much more fulfilling and enjoyable work experience that will pay off with improved employee productivity and overall engagement. What are some things that you have done to help build trust in the workplace?

*Psychology Today Article

**Forbes Article