Developing trust in the workplace

Trust in the workplace. This topic has been gaining popularity in recent times, not least throughout the pandemic. According to The Edelman Global Trust Survey (which was referenced in the previous blog post regarding trust in society and business as a whole), 1 in 3 people don’t trust their employer.

In the same Edelman research, it was found that trust decreases the higher up the organizational hierarchy that you go, thus meaning it is not only critical to establish trust from the start of your career, but to make conscious efforts to retain and grow it as you progress. 

The benefits of a trusting workplace

If you have ever worked in an organization with low trust, where people are distant, defensive and divisive, you will know just how toxic and counter-productive to growth this can be. 

Intuitively, the opposite can be said of a workplace in which trust has been prioritized. There are so many benefits of a trusting workplace, some of which we have outlined below. 

When coworkers trust one another, they are more likely to work cohesively together, creating a more effective working environment. Enhanced teamwork is a key benefit of a trusting workplace.

Similarly, a trusting environment also leads to higher efficiency and productivity as employees can focus their full effort on the task at hand, with the help of trusted coworkers if required. Decisions are often made more quickly and effectively, with fewer disputes or conflicts. 

This smoother decision making process is often also the result of trust creating a more cohesive vision for the future of the organization amongst employees and employers. Individuals trust that their colleagues are acting in the best interests of all and are more likely to subscribe to one another’s aims and ambitions. 

A higher level of loyalty to the organization along with a lower rate of staff attrition is yet another benefit. An organization in which trust is prioritized is a highly sought after environment, and thus not something which employees would be quick to forfeit.

Enhanced creative thinking is also a benefit of a trusted workplace. When employees feel secure and trusted they are more able to tap into their creativity and express themselves without fear of judgment. 

The same can be said of growth mindsets. In a trusted environment people have more open and ambitious goals which may allow both the individual or organization to reach its full potential. 

All of the benefits we have mentioned also lead to an overall decrease in stress levels at organizations, amongst employees and employers alike, due to the more enjoyable and collaborative environment which they create. 

But creating that trust, or perhaps more cynically, re-establishing trust if it has been lost, is not always straightforward. However, coaching and mentorship can help by breaking down the elements of trust into distinct parts and considering how you can best develop each. 

By understanding the elements that underpin the creation and retention of trust, employees and employers alike are better able to adapt such behaviors themselves. The Harvard Business Review breaks these down into 3 distinct elements which we have explored below. 

Element 1 – Positive relationships

The extent to which you can build positive relationships is central to the establishment of trust. 

Delivering feedback that is both constructive and genuine is a great place to start. Feedback flows both ways. You need to know how to constructively give and take it. 

When you make a decision to give and receive feedback on a regular basis you show that it is a powerful means of personal development and positive change. 

Done properly, feedback need not be confrontational or intimidating, and the more practice you get the better you will become at it. It may never be your favorite means of communication with your colleagues but it does have the ability to make your workplace a much more efficient, trusting and happy place to be.

Element 2 – Good Judgment and Expertise

The depth of knowledge and experience you have, along with how well you impart this upon others is also key to trust. Being able to ‘walk the walk’ in everyday working scenarios, as well as being able to ‘talk the talk’ in terms of on paper technical comprehension is critical. 

When you can think critically, you will be able to navigate difficult situations and while your knowledge is used to make the ultimate decision, it should also be influenced by the world and people around you. 

Even before people get to know you, they will have a perception of who you are based on the company you keep, so ensure that you surround yourself with people who you also respect and trust. 

When you are driven by purpose, you move forward with a clear direction. This grounds you and helps you to stay aligned with the greater goal, giving you clarity to execute good judgment.

Paired with continued professional training and personal study this will help ensure your good judgment and expertise is noticed and highly regarded by your fellows. 

Element 3 – Consistency

The third element involves producing the same high standard of work throughout a long period of time. Consistency affects the quality of work that you develop, the speed at which you produce work, your attendance and your communication with others in your workplace.

Such traits may include;

– Setting a good example to more junior colleagues;

– Delivering on your word time and time again;

– Being willing to go over and above to get a job done to a high standard. 

Overall it would seem that trust and effective working practices go hand in hand. Without trust, a leader will undoubtedly struggle to achieve their highest potential. And without trust, a more junior member will unquestionably struggle to advance. In both instances, the organization will fail to meet its full potential. 

Consider which one of the above three elements you feel most instinctively drawn to. This element is most probably the one which you are also the most competent at. On that basis, it is worth starting to focus your time and energy on improving your capacity for one of the other two elements. Only when you close the gap and have a strong grounding in all three elements can you expect your colleagues (both above and below you) to trust you, and for your organization as a whole to perform at its best. 

Whether you are looking to build a highly trusted environment at your organization, or to enhance your own personal level of trustworthiness, get in touch to learn more about how our coaching and mentorship services would help.

Written by Holly Thompson
Holly is a Chartered Accountant (CA) from Scotland with a background in external audit and prospects in forensic accounting. She also has experience in editorial and creative writing which she is putting to use during her time in Sweden. Look out for new blog posts, perfect for open and curiously minded individuals.


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