How to build trust in the workplace
Your trustworthiness will help determine how successful you'll be in your job and career. Follow these steps to build your trust quotient at work.
Trust is about reliability and doing the right thing. It's also a big factor that will determine success in your job and your career—especially in a rough business climate where your value as an employee is closely watched.
Do your colleagues, subordinates or superiors perceive you as trustworthy and honest? How do you perceive them? Trust is a characteristic that builds respect and loyalty, as well as a supportive and safe work environment. Distrust increases tension and negative "on guard" behavior, which can erode the spirit of the team and ultimately productivity.
Below are six steps to build trust in the workplace.
1. Be honest
The first step in building trust is to be honest.
- Tell the truth. Even small lies and twisted truths are still lies.
- Share honest information, even if it's to your disadvantage.
- Don't steal—on expense reports, from the supply cabinet or your colleagues.
2. Use good judgment
The second step is to know what information to share, when to share it and when not to share it.
- Protect employee's personal information and company or competitors' proprietary information as if it were your own.
- Think twice before sharing a blunt, unsolicited judgment. Extreme honesty may hurt the recipient, ironically destroying trust and the safe environment.
- Don't expect apologies to erase your wrongdoings. Apologies might earn a forgive, but perhaps not a forget.
- Avoid "just between us" secret conversations unless necessary to the benefit of the company.
3. Be consistent
The third step is to be consistent in words and behaviors. It's not enough to be trustworthy only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
- Show up—every day and on time—and stay at least the required hours.
- Do the work; meet or exceed the job description and company standards.
- Do what you say you will do. Fulfill your promises.
4. Be honest in nonverbal communications
Body language experts tell us that more than half of communications' impact is in nonverbal communications. To increase trust through body language:
- Look others in the eye with comfortable and direct eye contact.
- Exhibit open body language with: 1) open arms versus closed across the chest or hands clasped together, 2) hands kept in sight (not behind you or in your pockets) and open (not in a fist), and 3) legs uncrossed with feet flat on the floor, while seated.
5. Have a mutually beneficial attitude
Blatant self-serving agendas may cast doubt on one's trustworthiness. In reality, everyone has self-serving agendas, but it is the level of harm to others that determines the level of trust in that person. To increase trust:
- Avoid me, me, me. Genuinely care about others and promote we, we, we.
- Nurture mutually beneficial relationships with open communications.
- Willingly accept information and constructive critique.
6. For the leaders
Trusted leaders are sorely needed. Leaders should be able to:
- Ask the hard questions to build and protect the company.
- Listen and consider others' ideas with an open mind.
- Focus on issues and solutions rather than personalities.
- Set the example, by being responsible and accountable.
[Pat Mayfield is the president of Pat Mayfield Consulting LLC, based in San Francisco and Pleasanton, California. She specializes in business solutions and results.]