Trust In The Workplace: Why It Matters and How It’s Built


Trust in the workplace refers to psychological safety, mutual respect, and open communication between employees and management. As interpersonal challenges and conflict naturally arise, building trust improves problem-solving and comfort in the workplace.

Trust in the workplace may seem like a broad concept at first glance, but it’s vital for peers and management bonding, having open communication, and experiencing psychological safety. Just like in personal relationships, trust allows us to work better together, share thoughts and feelings, and feel secure in our environments. Studies have shown that organizations with high levels of trust have higher productivity and financial performance, and that low-trust creates the opposite results, as well as lower retention. No matter where your organization or team currently stands, there are many ways to build and rebuild trust in the workplace.

Inclusivity, Support, and Acceptance

Allow your employees to share at work safely. Pay attention to how others react when conversations come to topics of gender, relationships, diversity, and other personal details, as well as work-related conversations. When it comes to offering thoughts and ideas, employees must feel comfortable sharing without concerns of dismissal or rejection. Upholding a standard of respect and support will allow employees to feel welcome, and psychologically safe at work. Ensure the use of inclusive and considerate language, and show appreciation for sharing differing opinions. Counter inappropriate communication quickly to make sure it isn’t perceived as acceptable. 

Autonomy and Accountability

Within high-trust organizations, we see employees acting with autonomy. Management communicates clear expectations, and employees are given the space to deliver. On the other hand, micro-managing both indicates and creates a low-trust environment. Autonomy and independence to perform build motivation, confidence, and enthusiasm in employees, and shows that management relies on their competence and commitment.

To build comfort and confidence with autonomy, assign small but manageable tasks in new areas to allow employees to grow their skills, and then leave them to it. Performing without direct supervision or management interaction will improve their problem-solving, and build confidence. Of course, hold them accountable for these opportunities. Knowing that you can rely on your team and peers comes from their performance. Make sure that appreciation and recognition are part of your corporate culture so that employees are motivated to meet and exceed expectations.

Space For Vulnerability and Candor

For open communication and understanding, make sure to create a comfortable environment to share vulnerabilities. Whether about work challenges, or personal matters that may be affecting the workplace, an open-door policy is best. The “brave face” method of avoiding sensitive topics may create a divide between employees, and management. This can be done in small ways: management sharing mistakes, “failures”, and lessons learned can help employees to be vulnerable about their challenges. However, be certain to ensure that individuals are not criticized or punished (even indirectly) by sharing. In my experience, witnessing employees open up about their challenges can either bring teams together or push them apart, depending on how this is handled. 

Ethical Leadership

Ultimately, leadership and management must perform and maintain these trust-building practices. When leaders are not trusted or do not foster psychological safety, subordinates may have lower performance engagement at work, and at worst become unsure of their job security. Ensure your managers behave in honest, transparent, and supportive ways to promote feelings of trust.

Building trust is an ongoing but vital process that can create positive outcomes beyond employee satisfaction. By maintaining respectful and inclusive communication, creating comfort in honesty and vulnerability, and offering opportunities for independence, improved trust can be built. 

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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