The Trust Factor: How To Build Trust In The Workplace

A lack of trust is one of the biggest threats to business growth, according to PwC’s 2016 Global CEO Survey. The study concluded that 50% of CEOs worldwide consider a lack of trust a significant threat to their organizational growth.

Paul J. Zak, an expert on the neurological connection between trust, leadership, and organizational performance, has conducted extensive research on the topic. He found that people at high-trust companies report 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, and 40% less burnout than those at low-trust companies.

As a leader, one of your most important jobs is building trust within your team. Why? Because trust is the foundation upon which all relationships are built. It allows us to feel safe, seen, and supported. Trust allows us to take risks, be vulnerable, and grow.

When employees trust their leaders, they are more likely to be productive and feel appreciated. On the other hand, when leaders lack trustworthiness, it can be challenging to create a positive work environment.

In this article, we will discuss the steps leaders can take to build trust in the workplace. We’ll also discuss effective ways to foster a culture of trust within an organization and its value when present.

The Neuroscience Of Trust: The Cornerstone Of Organizational Success

Our Brain Plays a Vital Role in Social Bonding and Trust

When it comes to the workplace, trust is often thought of as something built slowly over time through interactions and experiences. And while that’s undoubtedly true, there’s also a science to trust. In fact, recent research has shown that trust is actually wired into our brains.

An article published in Harvard Business Review found that when we trust someone, our brains release a neurochemical called oxytocin. Oxytocin is sometimes called the “cuddle hormone” because it’s released during physical contact, such as hugging or kissing. But it also plays a vital role in social bonding and trust.

Interestingly, the study found that oxytocin was only released when participants thought they received help from a trustworthy source. When they felt they were being helped by someone who wasn’t trustworthy, their brains didn’t release oxytocin. This suggests that our brains are hardwired to respond to trustworthiness on a fundamental level.

Trust is more important than ever in today’s shifting and volatile business landscape. Trust is the glue that holds organizations together. Employees who trust their leaders are more engaged, productive, and resilient in the face of change. And when times are tough, trust allows businesses to weather the storm.

In short, trust is the cornerstone of organizational success. And yet, despite its importance, trust is often in short supply, and it remains an arduous task for many leaders, managers, and organizations to maintain.

Building trust in the workplace is not easy, but it is possible. First, a leader needs to have a solid understanding of what trust is, what it looks like in action, and how to foster it within their team.

5 Effective Ways For Leaders To Build A Culture of Trust In The Workplace

Building a Culture of Trust In The Workplace

Many organizations attempting to build a culture of trust often fail because they make the common mistake of thinking that trust can be simply mandated from the top down. While it’s important for leaders to set the tone for trust in the workplace, it takes more than just issuing an edict.

Engagements such as “trust-building exercises” are often organized with the best intentions but end up feeling inauthentic, forced, and even uncomfortable. As a result, employees come away feeling more resentful and untrusting than before.

So, what does it take to build trust in the workplace?

Here are five things that leaders can do to build and maintain a culture of trust:

1. Be transparent

One of the best ways to build trust is to be transparent. This means being open and honest about what’s going on in the organization, both the good and the bad. Let your employees know the company’s goals, and keep them updated on progress. Be clear about expectations and give employees the information they need to do their jobs well.

It’s important to be transparent not only about the organization, but also about yourself. Culture boils down to people, so sharing about yourself is equally as important as sharing about the organization. One great way to grow your interpersonal relationships is to tell stories. For a some ideas on exactly how to do that, read The 3 Secrets Of Inspirational Leadership.

2. Communicate frequently

Another way to build trust is to communicate frequently. This means keeping employees up-to-date on what’s happening in the organization and their specific roles. Mutual trust is built when employees feel like they can rely on their leaders for accurate and timely information. Improve employee engagement by ensuring everyone is on the same page and that team members know what’s expected of them.

3. Be consistent

One of the quickest ways to lose trust is to be inconsistent. Employees need to know that they can rely on their leaders, which means being consistent in words and actions. If a leader says one thing but does another, it sends a confusing message and creates an environment of mistrust.

4. Follow through on commitments

When leaders make promises, they need to follow through on them. This is one of the most critical aspects of building trust, as it shows employees that their leaders are reliable and can be counted on to keep their word.

Admit mistakes when they happen and work to rectify them as soon as possible. Failing to do so will only erode trust further.

5. Be open to feedback

Leaders need to be open to feedback, both positive and negative. This shows employees that their leaders are interested in hearing what they say and willing to listen to constructive criticism. It also helps to create emotional trust, as employees feel like they can openly share their thoughts and feelings without fear of reprisal.

Tip: Listen actively and watch their body language for signs that they are uncomfortable or not being completely honest. Respond to feedback positively, and let employees know their input is valued and appreciated by the leadership team.

Trust is often considered to be a touchy-feely topic that is best left to the HR department. However, the reality is that trust is essential for any organization to function effectively. Without trust, employees are less likely to take risks, be creative, and work collaboratively. As a result, companies that lack trust often find themselves stuck in a rut of mediocrity.

How to enhance trust in your organization

How To Implement Trust in Your Organization

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to building trust in the workplace. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to create a culture of trust. It starts with leaders setting the tone and modeling the behavior they want to see from their team.

If you’re still reading this, chances are you’re looking to step up your leadership game. And rightfully so – the world is in dire need of more effective leaders. But where to begin?

One proven and effective method is to employ executive coaching, both for yourself and your team. Hiring a coach can help you develop the skills you need to build trust in your workplace. In addition, an executive coach can provide valuable feedback and guidance as you strive to reach your leadership potential.

And when you develop your own leadership potential, and that of your team, you can reap the many benefits of trust in the workplace. 

8 Benefits Of Building Trust In The Workplace

Benefits of Building Trust in the Workplace

Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship, whether personal or professional. Unfortunately, in my experience, leaders tend to focus on the task at hand and sometimes lose sight of the importance of trust.

In doing so, they forgo many obvious and essential benefits of trust, so let’s discuss some of these benefits:

1. Helps to build strong relationships

When employees trust their colleagues and managers, they are more likely to develop strong relationships with them. This can lead to greater collaboration, employee engagement, and increased job satisfaction.

Encourage employees to share their ideas and concerns openly, and ensure that information flows freely between different levels of the organization. Creating meaningful bonds beyond the workplace will also help build trust. Engaging in personal conversation (threading the needle between too much and too little information), sharing common interests, and getting to know employees on a more personal level will help to create a trusting environment.

2. Increases productivity

Any leader worth their salt knows that trust is essential for a healthy workplace. Employees who feel like they can trust their colleagues and supervisors are more likely to be productive because they feel empowered to take risks and experiment with new ideas.

After all, why would anyone want to try something new if they know they’ll be penalized for it? A little bit of trust goes a long way in ensuring employees feel comfortable being creative and taking chances.

3. Creates a positive work environment

A positive work environment is essential for attracting and retaining top talent. This creates a virtuous circle that benefits the individual and the organization. Organizations that invest in creating a positive work environment will find that they can attract and retain the best employees.

Creating a positive work environment is an investment that pays off in multiple ways, making it an essential part of any organization’s success. Trust creates value that cannot be measured in numbers.

4. Reduces stress and anxiety

It’s no secret that work can be stressful. Many things can make even the most easygoing person feel overwhelmed, whether it’s looming deadlines, demanding clients, or just the daily grind. But did you know that one of the best ways to reduce work stress is to build trust? That’s right – when employees feel like their superiors trust them, they are less likely to experience anxiety or stress about their work.

Micromanagement is one of the quickest ways to breed distrust and stress in the workplace. If you want your employees to feel trusted, give them the space to do their jobs without constantly looking over their shoulders.

5. Improves communication and decision making

Good communication is the backbone of any successful organization, yet it can be surprisingly difficult to achieve. After all, effective communication requires not only that people be able to express themselves clearly, but also that they feel comfortable doing so. And that’s where trust comes in.

When colleagues breed trust and mutual respect, employees feel more inclined to share information freely and candidly. This helps promote a two-way communication flow that can benefit the entire organization.

6. Positively impacts revenue

There’s an old adage, “honesty is the best policy,” and while that may be a bit simplistic, there’s no denying that trust is a critical ingredient in any successful relationship. That includes the relationship between a business and its employees.

Now, we all know that businesses are interested in profit. But you may not realize that happy, engaged employees are one of the best ways to boost the bottom line. This is backed up by research; a 2015 study by Interaction Associates showed that businesses with high-trust ratings were more than 2½ times as likely to be high-performing revenue organizations versus their low-trust counterparts.

So, what does this all mean? Well, it’s simple: if you want your business to succeed, make sure your employees are engaged. It’ll pay off in the long run!

7. Reduces Absenteeism

As any employer knows, absenteeism can be a real productivity killer. When employees are constantly calling in sick or taking extended leaves of absence, it can be difficult to get work done. Absences can also strain the rest of the team, who have to pick up the slack.

Trust has been shown to have a direct impact on absenteeism. Employees who trust their employer are less likely to call in sick, and when they do, they’re more likely to return to work quickly. In contrast, employees who don’t trust their employer are more likely to take extended absences.

The reasons for this are manifold but often boil down to feeling undervalued or unappreciated. Therefore, employers who want to reduce absenteeism should focus on building trust within their organization.

8. Reputation boost

When an organization is known for being trustworthy, it can be a major boon to its reputation. After all, who wouldn’t want to do business with a company known for being honest and reliable?

A good reputation can help attract top talent, as potential employees will be more likely to want to work for a company that is known for being trustworthy. Furthermore, a good reputation can help a company win over customers and clients, as they will be more likely to do business with a company they feel they can trust.

Leaders have an enormous impact on an organization’s reputation, so it’s important that they set the tone when it comes to trust. Think of it as an investment: the more trust you build, the more your reputation will improve.

It only takes a single team member to break the trust of an entire team. As such, leaders must be vigilant about maintaining a culture of trust.

Final Thoughts

Be the Kind of Leader Others Can Trust

The way you lead will directly influence the culture of your workplace. If you want to build trust in the workplace, start by being the kind of leader that others can trust.

The trickle-down effect of being a great leader is that it creates a domino effect of success. When you lead with trust, your employees will follow suit, creating a workplace culture built on trust.

The emerging global economy, multicultural workplaces, and the increase in technological advancements have made it more critical than ever for leaders to be up to date with the best leadership practices.

My goal is to help you navigate these changes and challenges to emerge as an effective leader who builds trust and thrives in the 21st-century workplace.

Schedule a call today, and let’s talk about how I can help you take your leadership skills to the next level.

About The Author

Brent Mullins is a Certified Executive Coach serving successful senior leaders in global organizations to create positive, sustained change and achieve breakthrough performance. Brent’s extensive real-life experience includes executive leadership serving as Global Head of Human Resources at Fortune 200 companies and 25+ years in leadership roles. His expertise in navigating complex differences in assumptions, values, beliefs, and core culture is at the heart of his work.

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