How to build trust in the workplace

Published by Richenda Sabine on

How to build trust in the workplace

Table of contents

The world is full of misinformation and disinformation, where trust in government is at an all-time low. Now, more than ever, we need to invest in building trust within our communities and in the workplace. Trust is not just an expectation of behaviour, it’s an emotional brain state.

To create a successful company, it’s critical to build trust in the workplace. Employees need to have trust in all aspects of their working lives — they want to feel trusted and believe that their company will support them.

In the wake of the Covid pandemic, workplaces have had to become more flexible than before, and employees’ expectations have risen. Although flexibility and benefits are beneficial, safety and support are the priority.

Harvard Business Review survey found that employees who felt leaders treated them with respect and trust were 63% more satisfied with their jobs, 55% more engaged and 100% more likely to stay with the organization. But when you’re dealing with feelings it can be tricky. How can you make employees feel that way? The answer is to create a culture of transparency, accountability and consistency.

Rick Hammell, CEO and founder of Elements Global Services, an HR technology & services company, believes that it’s important for business leaders to create a culture where employees are comfortable with approaching their superiors with mistakes made, questions or concerns: “The best way to create vulnerable, honest workplace communication is to encourage managers, mentors and leaders to speak up, as this will make employees feel more comfortable opening up to their colleagues. Todd Moran, Chief learning strategist at NovoEd: “If inclusion and belonging are the ultimate blocks in the pyramid of employee engagement, open lines of communication between colleagues and managers are the glue holding all of it together.”

Why trust in the workplace is important

People need to have others they can trust wherever they are. Here are the reasons why:

1: Trust in the workplace creates psychological safety

When there’s trust between team members, they feel safe psychologically and aren’t afraid to speak up.

2: Trust encourages questioning and risk-taking

At work, asking questions and taking risks leads to innovation. If a team doesn’t have trust between their members, they’re more likely to avoid asking questions or taking risks which are important for encouraging more understanding.

3: Trust encourages fast decisions

Once trust is established, the decision-making process moves faster because the proof is already there.

4: Trust improves communication

When there’s a lack of trust between people, communication suffers because of the fear that whatever’s communicated might be used as retaliation or won’t be respected. This makes people hide things from each other, which only leads to negative consequences, and misunderstandings are more common. With trust, communication is open and honest.

5: Trust promotes self-confidence

In environments where trust is lacking, people can’t rely on others to respect their opinions and value. Without that affirmation, it’s quite easy for someone’s confidence to plummet, so they won’t take risks or express their creativity. Within a safe space of trust, people are confident to be themselves and be validated, encouraging more trust and vulnerability.

6: Trust increases productivity

The combination of risk-taking, fast decisions and self-confidence at work adds up to a more productive workplace. Without trust in the workplace, everything takes longer, there’s less unity and higher stress levels. As a result, the company is less productive which can have financial consequences and eventually an organisation can fail.

 7: Trust encourages meaningful connections

Trust is the backbone of every healthy relationship. When you trust that a person respects you, it’s much easier to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is what fosters real, close connection. With each experience proving a person’s trustworthiness, others feel more comfortable and safer.

 8: Trust reduces stress

A lack of trust is emotionally draining. It causes stress and makes them feel they’re constantly looking over their shoulder in case someone is about to stab them in the back. Being in a trusting environment lets a person relax and their stress decreases.

9: Trust increases feelings of optimism

You’ll find that people who identify as pessimists haven’t experienced many trusting relationships or environments. But trust teaches us that the world isn’t all dangerous  ̶  there are people out there with good intentions, and research shows that optimism comes with other benefits, including better health and longer lifespans.

10: Trust is good for communities

When trust becomes a cultural norm, that community is more likely to thrive. Dan Buetter, author of The Blue Zones of Happiness, discovered that when trust is below 30%, a country’s living standards are stuck and unable to grow. Apart from gross domestic product (GDP), trust is the strongest predictor of a nation’s level of happiness.

colleagues in office positively interacting

Trust is everything

Many years ago, Stephen Covey observed that without trust, people don’t truly collaborate  ̶  they just coordinate or cooperate. He pointed out that trust transforms a group of people into a team. Research suggests that employees who work for high-trust companies enjoy their jobs 60% more.

Research undertaken by the American neuroeconomist Paul J Zak found that when people have higher levels of oxytocin (sometimes called the feel-good chemical), they are more likely to trust others. In other words, people who are happy and rewarded are more open to trusting others. 

Employees are now asking more from their workplaces, as more companies aim to provide a better work-life balance. Consider what you can do to improve relationships with your workforce.

At BAD, we provide digital solutions underpinned by behavioural science to develop your workforce’s skills and improve engagement. Contact us today to discuss how we can enhance your business.

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