How to build trust at work
Your trustworthiness will help determine your success in your job and career. Take these steps to forge genuine relationships with your co-workers.
What’s at the core of any professional relationship? One word: trust. It’s absolutely necessary in order to establish not only your reputation, but also a strong network of people who will help you throughout your career.
It goes without saying: No one person is responsible for the success of a company; it’s a team effort. “There is a tightly woven chain of events that needs to happen in any organization in order to achieve results,” says Kathy Robinson, founder of Career Advisors Network, a national association of independent career professionals. “People are relying on each other in a workplace.”
But that reliance can’t exist without trust. “It’s a reflection of your character,” says Jennifer McClure, president of Unbridled Talent LLC, a leadership advisory firm. “Co-workers will go above and beyond for people they trust.” That, in turn, helps produce above-and-beyond results.
Follow these tips to build trust with your peers, subordinates, and superiors.
Give co-workers praise when it’s due
One way to cultivate authentic relationships with your peers is to praise their work. “When you give credit to others, you’re seen as gracious,” says Los Angeles–based executive coach Libby Gill. However, “it has to be authentic and well timed,” says Gill. A team meeting, for example, is a natural setting to celebrate a co-worker’s big career achievement or say thank you for someone’s help with a project.
Avoid office gossip
We know this is easier said than done, but the plaint truth is office gossip can be toxic. Furthermore, “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,” says Gill. A better coping mechanism? When you’re frustrated with a co-worker, vent to someone outside the company.
If you have an issue with a co-worker, try to resolve the problem with the person in private before bringing it to your boss, Robinson advises.
Being perceived as a team player by your co-workers builds trust, but you have to take steps to shape your image.
Let’s say you attended an industry conference. Rather than hogging all you learned so that only you can benefit, sharing what you learned with your peers can help establish credibility as a team player.
But it’s important to have the right intentions. “If your goal is to help your colleagues and peers develop and succeed, you’ll build trust,” McClure says. If you’re just sharing because you want something in return, odds are your peers are going to pick up on that and trust you less.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but if you view others as trustworthy, chances are they’ll reciprocate. Give your co-workers all the help they need from you, then trust them to execute.
This goes doubly if you’re someone’s manager. Many supervisors unintentionally micromanage their employees, and that can be a huge blow to building trust.
To avoid over-meddling, Gill recommends setting check-in meetings—say, once a week or once a month—so that you can effectively oversee your direct reports without hovering over their shoulder.
Invest in your employees’ development
If you manage others, part of your job is to help your direct reports grow by gaining new skills and sharpening the skills they already have. To do that though, you have to provide them with honest feedback—a combination of praise and constructive criticism—on a regular basis, says Gill.
Performance reviews are another opportunity to build trust with your direct reports. “People trust leaders who make them feel valued,” says McClure. By asking your employees what you can be doing to better support their work, you’ll not only solidify a good work relationship but also boost their level of engagement.
Leaders want people who routinely exceed their expectations—meaning you have to produce excellent work day in and day out. No one on your team should have to wonder whether you’re going to deliver. “You have to be trusted to not only do a great job but also deliver results on time,” says Marcelle Yeager, president of Career Valet, a professional coaching firm.
Not only does your performance need to be consistent, but so should your mood. “Your boss needs to know that you can be counted on to keep a calm, cool, and collected mind,” says Robinson, “otherwise the trust level is going to go way down.”
Pay attention to non-verbal communication
Your body language can help you build trust with co-workers, but it can also undermine your efforts if you’re not careful. Research shows a slumping posture or crossed arms can turn people off. Conversely, making eye contact and nodding to show your interest can help build trust. Create a welcoming atmosphere for others so they don’t hesitate to approach you. Being open to your co-workers will make them feel invited to share ideas and feedback with you.
Welcome new hires graciously
Managers play a crucial role in their company’s onboarding process, which can be a great way of boosting employee retention. (One survey from Paycom found that a great onboarding experience can reduce turnover by 157% and boost employee engagement by 54%.) That’s why it’s important for supervisors to make new hires feel welcome. Even small gestures, like taking someone out for coffee or lunch, can enable you to build rapport and trust from the start.
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