How to Build Trust in the Workplace (And Why It's Important)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Trust in the workplace is important to maintaining a positive working environment and supporting productive collaboration between colleagues. You can learn how to support trust in the workplace by adopting techniques which can have a significant positive impact on workplace culture. Learning to trust in the workplace can improve individual staff interaction and promote a healthier working dynamic. In this article, we share what workplace trust is, provide nine steps on how to build trust in the workplace and discuss why building trust at work is important.

What is trust in the workplace?

Understanding how to build trust in the workplace requires an understanding of what trust is. Trust in the workplace refers to honest and open communication and relationships between colleagues without fear of disloyalty or foul play. Trust is crucial in the workplace because it's the foundation of positive and productive working relationships and largely supports a positive workplace culture. Most organisations establish values to support trust in the workplace and some may ask for feedback from employees about ways they can improve workplace trust and relationships.

When employees feel a large amount of trust in others in the workplace, they may feel more secure, experience less workplace stress and have more faith in their colleagues and senior leadership. Trust at work also refers to earning individual credibility after treating people with respect. There are two main types of trust in the workplace:

  • Emotional trust: Emotional trust is crucial to building more personal relationships with colleagues. People typically earn emotional trust by exceeding workplace expectations, while meeting other colleagues' emotional needs by looking after their well-being and supporting their career progression.

  • Practical trust: Practical trust is important for colleagues to rely on their peers to complete their work on time and continue to dedicate themselves fully whilst at work. This earns professional respect and ensures people understand that their peers are reliable at work.

How to build trust in the workplace

Here's a guide to building trust in the workplace:

1. Communicate with colleagues

Communication is key to establishing trust between colleagues, as it gives people the opportunity to discuss personal and professional matters openly. Good communication via virtual or in-person means helps colleagues form more productive relationships, giving them the chance to talk over current tasks, solve problems or talk about their personal interests. When building trust in the workplace, consider placing special emphasis on a positive tone, body language and encouraging open and honest conversation between colleagues to support more productive relationships.

Related: Why Interpersonal Communication Is So Important at Work

2. Prioritise honesty

Honesty is crucial to ensuring your colleagues can trust what you say and your recommendations. Lying about work or the state of the organisation's affairs can present you as unreliable, so practicing honesty is a good way to gain and maintain the respect and trust of your colleagues. You can practice honesty by maintaining clarity about your work, performance and any gaps in your knowledge about a particular topic. Admitting a gap in understanding is a better tactic than lying about your abilities and knowledge.

3. Build personal relationships at work

Although a working environment typically prioritises professionalism, it's an inevitable that personal relationships form in a workplace. It's important to take an interest in a colleague's personal life because it can have an impact on their workplace performance. Taking an interest in their personal life may also comfort them and provide them with a safe space to discuss anything that's worrying them or major developments in their life. Consider asking colleagues about their interests, hobbies and family life if they're comfortable sharing.

4. Help your team when possible

Offering help isn't only a polite thing to do, it's also important for presenting yourself as a reliable resource. If colleagues are behind on a project or confused about a task that you have personal experience with, consider offering your expertise and experience. This may help relieve any stress you have whilst forming solid relationships with your colleagues. Presenting yourself as helpful is also important to boosting your credibility in the workplace, which has a positive impact on the overall working culture.

5. Ensure inclusivity

Inclusivity refers to offering all people equal opportunities regardless of their position, race, gender, sex or age. This is crucial to building professional integrity, credibility and trust, as people may be more likely to trust you if they feel you show no bias towards others. This is also an important workplace value that has a sizeable impact on a organisation's reputation and staff retention. To build trust via inclusivity, managers may consider conducting regular reviews into how these values are demonstrated by all staff.

Related: 5 Steps To Become a Better Ally at Work

6. Follow through on promises

Following through on promises refers to completing all your commitments and obligations to the best of your ability. For example, if you offer help to a colleague during a major project, they may feel like they have support on that particular project and on any in the future. Ensure that you fulfil primary responsibilities like arriving at work on time every day, completing all your tasks and working to improve every day. Doing this presents you as a reliable colleague who your peers can trust to help them at work.

7. Gradually work to build trust

Some colleagues may take more time to trust, so it's important to not rush relationships. To do this, ensure that you don't force people to reveal personal information or try to convince them you're reliable and are trustworthy. Doing this can make people feel pressured. Consider easing colleagues into trust by encouraging casual conversation occasionally and offering your help with smaller projects if you're asked.

8. Limit workplace gossip

Workplace gossip can have a detrimental impact on workplace culture and overall trust. Gossip refers to any unprofessional conversation that focuses on other colleagues and their professional or personal lives. Typically, these conversations take place within cliques or without the knowledge of the subject of the conversation. To curb this and build trust, try to de-escalate any such conversations, offer guidance to those affected by gossip and try to redirect the conversation. Offering support to those affected by workplace gossip helps to build trust between colleagues and can help establish a healthier workplace culture.

Related: How to Handle Interpersonal Conflict at Work (With Examples)

9. Act on your feedback

If colleagues supply you with feedback, consider making observable changes to show that you are acting on this feedback. Holding yourself accountable and acting on feedback demonstrates integrity and can boost workplace credibility. This may also earn respect and motivate peers to improve on their own work, too. This may also help colleagues feel more confident about giving and receiving feedback on their or someone else's work.

Why is building trust in the workplace important?

The importance of building trust in the workplace may differ depending on the industry and specific workplace dynamic, as trust may be more necessary in organisations that demand confidentiality. Despite this, there are some more general reasons building trust in the workplace is important. Here are some reasons:

Promotes respect

If employees trust each other, they may respect each other's work more. Respect is important in the workplace, especially for senior members of staff, as this helps them reinforce organisation values, motivate staff to complete their tasks and treat others with kindness. Respect can also curb workplace toxicity, like gossip or cliques.

Increased productivity

People may feel more motivated to work harder in an environment with high levels of workplace trust. This is because they may have more faith that their managers will celebrate their achievements and efforts, as well as support their individual career progression. This provides incentive for working harder, which then leads to increased productivity across teams. Better working relationships may also encourage employees to work collaboratively, meaning that they can complete tasks faster and to a good standard.

Improved workplace culture

Trust is critical to improving workplace culture. Workplace culture refers to the typical dynamic within an office or company and how colleagues interact with each other. When people have more trust in their colleagues and supervisors, this may lead to less workplace gossip or toxicity, which can have a problematic impact on working relationships. Good workplace culture also contributes to increased job satisfaction, potentially leading to higher approval rates from colleagues and a positive public profile for the organisation.

Higher retention rate

When people have faith in their place of work and trust their managers and colleagues fully, they may experience more security and happiness in their careers. This may lead to an increase in employee retention and the fostering of longer professional relationships. Staff retention is crucial to an organisation's public profile and to attracting prospective new staff, as people may be more likely to apply to an organisation company with a high employee retention rate.

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