Last updated April 7, 2023

Finding ways to build trust in the workplace with those people you manage, and with colleagues, is essential if you want to work efficiently and effectively and in an atmosphere that is positive. The great news is that there is a number of things you can do to build this trust and it is not hard to do. It just takes a little effort. So let’s take a look below at ways to build trust in the workplace.

Building trust in the workplace

The Importance of Trust in the Workplace

Before giving you seven useful tips to build trust, let’s just look at why trust in the workplace is so important!

Trust is essential for a number of reasons including because it:

  • creates a sense of pyschology safety in the workplace – meaning that staff feel comfortable to open up and to be involved. Staff who feel trusted are more likely to try new things and to get involved more
  • helps to creates an atmosphere where employees are happier and enjoy going to work and hence are more productive
  • enables staff to feel more empowered because they feel valued in the company
  • makes employees feel more connected to the team and this aids motivation

1. Learn to Listen as Listening Skills Are Vital for Trust

One of the simplest ways to build trust with your team and colleagues is just learning how to listen to other people.

‘Listening skills’ are vital in the workplace and yet so many of us lack key skills in this area and thus we miss a great opportunity to better understand colleagues and staff we manage.

We all know how to listen on a superficial level but how many of us really listen (rather than being more concerned with what we next want to say)? How often do we fail to really listen and thus we miss out on vital details?

Gainging trust with employees

Why do listening skills help with trust? It is because they:

  • Help deepen relationships – Active listening helps you focus on a person and find out things about them that you would have not known otherwise. The more you listen, the deeper your relationships will be. Also, the other person will open up to you more and they will be more likely to trust you and be your friends, rather than just acquaintances.
  • Encourages collaboration – If you listen better to other people, you will be able to develop better collaborations. For example, at work, you and your colleagues will be able to listen to each other and learn about each other’s ideas and develop possible projects.
  • Increases productivity – When people listen to each other, this decreases the risk of miscommunication, which is often one of the major causes of delays (as errors caused by miscommunication need to be rectified).
  • Increases empathy – Empathy refers to the ability to understand another person and share their feelings. If you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, this helps you understand where other people are coming from.
  • Helps you understand what motivates people – By listening to people effectively, you will understand what makes them tick. So, you will be able to motivate them. This is a good skill to have if you are a manager, for example, or if you are dealing with customers or negotiating with someone.
  • Reduces the frequency of conflicts and helps find win-win solutions – When two people listen to each other, they are more likely to understand each other’s motivations and to empathize. As a result, they are more likely to either not to start a conflict or, if they do, they will be more likely to find a win-win solution to the conflict.

You might find these resources useful on Listening Skills:

2. Ensure Managers Have Had Psychological Saftey Training

Psychological safety is vitally important if you want to build trust in the workplace!

Psychological safety in the workplace refers to a team climate in which staff feel comfortable to express their opinions, admit mistakes, give and receive feedback, suggest improvements and point out problems without fear of embarrassment, punishment or rejection by the rest of the team.

From the Pscychological Safety page.

If you can imagine your own workplace. If colleagues always feel unable to freely give input and to express their own opinions and are constantly worried about being embarrassed, will the atmosphere be good? Will staff have confidence?

Would trust exist between employees?

Psychological safety teaching plans
>> Psychological safety teaching plans

3. Use the Right Body Language

Teaching managers about body language is a very underestimated skill set that is often forgotten when training is provided.

Yet body language is so important and is particularly so in respect to how trust is developed between managers and employees, and between colleagues.

Have you ever experienced or seen any of these situations occur for example?

  • A team leader who fails ever to make contact with colleagues when giving a presentation?
  • A manager who slouches a lot and gives the impression that s/he lacks motivation (the very person who is meant to be motivating you)?
  • A colleague who stares too much as they listen to you, to the point that you feel uncomfortable and awkward?
  • The manager who, without thinking, always leans over you too much when talking to you at your computer?

Increasing awareness of body language, its effects, and the right and wrong techniques is certainly a good idea if you are looking to build workplace trust between employees.

Teaching body language in the workplace
>> Body language training materials

4. Lead by Example

The idea of leading by example is certainly not a new idea and it might also seem quite an obvious things to want to do as a team leader, manager, or as anyone in charge of others at work.

It is surprising though, as with many aspects of management, how leading by example is not used.

In a way, the lack of training in this area is understandable in that many managers rise through the ranks and often have not been given the training needed for first-time managers.

For trust, leading by example is essential because it means showing others that you care, are positive, work hard, and are not just pushing work onto others unfairly.

The team dynamics and etiquette in work teams are most often created by the manager (although also influenced by higher management and the HR department too).

The first way thus to start building trust in the workplace by leading, is to make sure that managers (especially first-time managers) are trained in core skills for people management.

5. Creating a Work Environment that Helps Emotional Intelligence to Build Trust

The term ‘Emotional Intelligence’ is one that you may have heard in relation to workplace training and it’s a topic that is especially important in building this trust we want to create at work.

If you want employees to feel a part of the team and to feel happy in their work, emotional intelligence is important.

What we are ideally looking for, in a good work environment, is a place where each employee:

  • feels that they can comfortably be open and speak up when they feel the need to, i.e. they feel at ease to be assertive
  • is motivated, is cooperative, supportive, and has a good working relationship with their colleagues
  • feels able to take responsibility for their own actions and to own up to mistakes without fear
  • can take and give feedback effectively

6. Take Onboarding (Induction) Seriously to Integrate New Employees

It is surprising how one bad employee can affect a whole team and the whole dynamics within an office.

One thing you can certainly do though to try and help new staff to integrate is offering decent induction training, also known as onboarding.

Whilst it does incur costs in terms of time and money, onboarding is essential.

New employees need to feel that they are valued and a part of the company and that they have had the right on-the-job training and access to the right people.

If you want to build workplace trust, give new employees a good start including:

  • a mentor or someone they can turn to in the first month if they need any help
  • the correct training for their specific role
  • an introduction to everyone in their team and to key people they’ll be working with
  • a point of contact for HR and for any services they need, i.e. I.T. (try not to leave a new employee stuck for three days with a computer login issue as happened to me in an old job).

7. Share Information When Possible

Whilst you clearly cannot provide all information to colleagues all the time, such as if the information is meant only for management, you can try and be as transparent as possible.

Be conscious of keeping your staff up-to-date as much as you can, both on minor and major things that might be of interest to them.

One of the easiest ways as a manager is to have weekly or bi-weekly meetings, even if you do it as a virtual online meeting because you have staff in different locations.

Being kept up-to-date and informed helps to breed positive trust!

This concept of sharing also applies to you if you are an employee on any level. Do not hold onto information because you are worried you will be less valued at work. Don’t hoard information.

Sharing helps to build trust!

Trust teaching materials
>> See the Building Trust Training Course Materials
Dr Valeria Lo Iacono