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How to build trust at the workplace

By Nancy Nzalambi | August 30th 2020 at 09:02:45 GMT +0300

“If people like you, they will listen to you, but if they trust you, they will do business with you,” goes a quote by American author Zig Ziglar. 

Trust is the best medium to grow success. It creates an environment in which people feel free to be authentic, passionate, committed, and willing to share all they have to offer.

Just as trust is an important aspect in personal relationships, so is it in the professional setting. We choose not to trust people because one, we do not know them well enough and two, we actually know them well enough.

What would make a highly knowledgeable person hesitate to air suggestions during a brainstorming session? Why would staff be reluctant to air their views in front of their manager? Is the workplace becoming a place where staff are afraid of being dismissed, shamed or judged? Do colleagues trust you at work?

Trust is an inside job

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Other than in the case of pure malice, when people distrust you, it becomes apparent in their actions and behaviour. When a majority of workmates distrust you, you will find yourself out of important or confidential meetings, your work gets double-checked and some level of micromanagement becomes apparent.

If you take some time for self-reflection, you may find that you are guilty of some not-so- trustworthy habits.

Author Hannah Price highlights that when you over-promise and fail to deliver, take credit for other people’s work or are the office gossip machine, you become less credible and less reliable to your coworkers and managers. You have to work on you.

Trust is a reflection of character

For businesses to thrive, relationships between employers and employees, workers and clients, stakeholders and investors need to be founded on trust.

Even if you do not see eye to eye, you need to trust your coworker, your manager, to do the right thing and to uphold work ethics.

It is unfortunate that many employees walk on eggshells at work mainly due to bad experiences with previous bosses or simply because they do not feel that the workplace is a trust-filled space. So, how do you build trust?

Do not shy away from the truth

Bo Bennett says, “For every good reason there is to lie, there is a better reason to tell the truth.” Being truthful is fundamental. It may seem easy to just say that but it is sometimes very difficult to say the truth.

Sincerity earns respect and trust. Otherwise, when people recognise and tag you a liar, the reputation will kill your credibility and reliability in the office. Admit when you don’t know something instead of offering false solutions that end up wasting time and money. Be true to yourself first and extend the same to your coworkers.

Own up to your mistakes

One of the most irritating traits you can have is believing you are always right. It is a clear indication that your lack of self-awareness is wanting.

How can your colleagues trust someone who is not even true to him/herself? When you take responsibility for failures, you influence a culture of integrity. There is no shame is learning from your failures.

Keep your promises

When you promise to get things done, do just that. If you make a habit of missing deadlines, failing to show up, calling off meetings at the last minute, your colleagues will not trust you to stay committed to your duties.

Additionally, do not pile some of your responsibilities to other people. If something is part of your work, do it. You may delegate at some point, but you cannot pass on every little thing to someone else.

Building trust takes hard work; but it is worth the effort. Model the behavior you seek to see at the workplace. “It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself”, Eleanor Roosevelt.

Trust your coworkers for honest insights. Allow others to participate and share their views during brainstorming sessions. Accept flaws without judgement and cultivate a foundation for collaboration and innovation. Be generous with sincerity. Welcome the company newbies graciously. When people feel trusted, they reciprocate.

Show leadership

Inspiring leadership is much more accepted than domineering management. Managers can easily earn the trust of their subordinates when they limit lecturing, direct rather than command, listen rather than dictate.

The opposite results in employees becoming defensive and reluctant to company initiatives. “A manager’s emphasis should be on what the employee can do rather than on what the employee cannot do”, says Dr Marvin Marshall.  

Refrain from office gossip

Executive coach Libby Gill says, “Gossiping doesn’t even build trust with the people you’re gossiping with because they’re going to fear you’ll do the same thing to them.” Office gossip is toxic.

It can destroy relationships and create a sense of frustration between coworkers. It is much better to resolve issues with concerned parties in private rather than going around the office talking ill of them. If you need to vent, do so to someone outside the company and whose advice and support means something to you.


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