How to Build Trust in the Workplace Without a Single Trust Fall

Build trust in the workplace that lasts

Jordan Matthews
Dec 6, 2021

I remember when work used to feel stressful. I’ve held more positions than I’d like where management didn’t trust their team. And without trust in the workplace, stress was a regular part of the day. Everything I did was questioned or corrected. Managers insisted on guiding my hand every step of the way, even if I was confident in what I needed to do. I didn’t have autonomy over my work, so it was hard to take on anything new. Plus, information was regularly withheld from me and my teammates! I felt defeated, like I was just showing up because someone was telling me to, not because I wanted to be there.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking “Tell me about it! I hate it when my managers do that.” Or maybe you’ve been that supervisor before. You weren’t sure you could rely on your teammates to get something done in the best way. Or you knew there was a lot at stake, so you felt like you needed to monitor every single detail. When it’s your name on the line, you want things to be done well.

It’s great to set expectations and value stellar work. There’s nothing wrong with that! But it can’t come at the expense of your team relationships. The solution to getting the best of both worlds? Cultivate trust in the workplace.

When you trust your team and they trust you, everyone’s aligned on what matters. Folks are more likely to not just show up, but to shine. This article covers the essential ways to build trust in the workplace so you and your teams can thrive.

How to build trust in the workplace

So many articles offer quick fixes and shortcuts for how to build trust in the workplace. Things like “11 helpful shortcuts to build trust” or “5 quick tips to get employees to trust you”. That may sound appealing, but why take shortcuts on something that really matters? When it comes to building trust in the workplace, you want something real that’s gonna last. Don’t settle for a quick fix.

At GQueues, trust is just a regular part of the work culture. And the difference is night and day. Building a team that’s transparent, accountable, and trustworthy is totally possible. You don’t need to micromanage. You don’t need to withhold basic information from your staff. But you do need a solid foundation.  If you’re looking for ways to build trust that lasts, forget shortcuts and learn to build team trust, for real.

What is trust?

Trust is built over time through small actions. It doesn’t require grandiose events or magically arise after something BIG. You don’t need to let your employee run the company for a week to prove you trust them. Small gestures over time will do just fine. (More on that later!)

Trust isn’t just a mindset. It’s based on behaviors. That’s why it takes time to develop trust in the workplace. It’s not immediate. People need to see trust and trustworthiness shown consistently over time before it really sets in as a part of the culture.

Trust takes vulnerability. When a project is important to you, it might be hard to let someone else help out. Letting someone else in on the workload can be stressful - what if they do it wrong? But building trust means sometimes taking that chance. Even if it doesn’t work out, you and your team will grow from the experience. But you’d be surprised how often things do work out with the right communication and expectations set clearly from the beginning 😊

Trust goes both ways. Research shows when someone gives us something, we naturally want to return the favor. We want to treat others the way we’re treated. That means to be trusted, you need to be willing to trust. Believe in your team to show up and deliver on their commitments. They might surprise you by exceeding expectations! Since you gave them the chance, they’ll return the favor by giving it their best effort.

Build trust with your team that lasts

Set clear expectations. Share your “why”

Take the time to communicate with your team and be clear with them on what matters. And not just what, but why it matters. How does this work fit into the bigger picture? This understanding can make all the difference. Meeting the expectations you set is more meaningful to each person when they’re connected to why it counts. But it also gives them creative power to meet those expectations in the way they know best, based on their own strengths.

At GQueues, my work writing blog posts and providing customer support fits into our big-picture values. For our company, user experience is central. GQueues was built by the community. It’s vital that people know about the product, know how to use it, and know their opinions are heard. So saving user feedback to refine the app, providing support so everything works how it should, and providing useful content to help bring more people to the product is essential to that vision. Knowing how my work contributes to that bigger picture motivates me to bring in my own customer service and writing experience to help make this value a reality.

You can’t predict the outcome, but you can do your best to be clear about why it counts from the beginning so everyone’s invested in the same vision.

Own your mistakes

When you make a mistake as a leader, it’s humanizing when you communicate it to your team. People like you more when you can be honest about where you fall short. This is called the Pratfall Effect, and you can use it to build trust. When you own up to your mistakes, it makes you more trustworthy.

And this accountability sets the pace for the rest of your team, too. Normalize being in communication when there are breakdowns. This might seem counterintuitive, but when your teammates know they can be open when something doesn’t go right, you can catch errors and make corrections sooner. In order to grow from your mistakes, they have to be acknowledged first.

That’s just one side of the coin. It’s also important to mind your reactions. Punishing people whenever they make mistakes is not the way to go. In previous jobs, people were let go after three strikes, no communication whatsoever. This punishment-first attitude added to the stress for the whole team since there was no explanation for what wasn’t working. Not ideal for building trust.

Instead, focus on what didn’t work and respond constructively. This gives people the opportunity to make the corrections they need to. It’s clear which areas need improvement and the situation can change for the better, building trust on both sides.

Demonstrate trust with small gestures

Like I said, you don’t have to let someone run the company for the day to prove you trust them. Give your team opportunities to take on more responsibility. Let people try something new or pitch an idea. These small gestures can build sustainable trust over time.

When I first came to GQueues, I had two responsibilities: provide awesome customer service and write awesome help articles. Helping customers and keeping up with articles are still an important part of my role, but I’ve also had the chance to take on something new. Hence these fabulous blog posts! 😎

How’d I take that on you may ask? My manager made the small gesture of asking what else I was interested in. When I said I wanted to write blog posts, I was given the opportunity to lead the project. My team trusted me to show up and give it my best shot. I got access to training tools, support from my manager, and my own resources for staying organized and meeting deadlines. This allows me to prove my own trustworthiness, and I trust my team knows I can do the job.

Give your teammates opportunities to take responsibility for something new. Listen to them when they have ideas for how things could be done better. Over time, these gestures add up to a trusting workplace!

Small gestures can build sustainable trust over time.

Make time to check in

Having regular check-ins with your team is fundamental to building trust that lasts. Regular team meetings go a long way. Use this time to catch the team up on what’s happening with individual projects. Make announcements about upcoming changes. Chat about goals for the week. Play a team-building game. Have people update the rest of the team on what they’re working on.

It’s also important to set time aside for meetings with individual team members. Regular one-on-one meetings offer a space for mutual constructive discussion between you and one direct report at a time. The key to a great one-on-one meeting is letting your report set the agenda. You should come prepared too, so you can each ask and answer questions to make sure you’re on the same page. Your reports can talk about where they’re stuck or where they’d like to improve. You get to know their strengths and can offer feedback.

When people feel more connected to their team, that sense of belonging supports loyalty and action. I’ve worked on teams where I felt more like a number than a valued person. And guess what? I didn’t care as much about my work. At GQueues, our weekly meetings help me feel more emotionally invested in what I’m doing. I see myself as a part of the whole. In our team meetings and my one-on-ones, I’m kept informed about what my managers are up to. I’m responsible for my own projects and update my team on them. I also get to share my thoughts openly. I know my voice matters, so I show up to do my part for my team. And I know my team trusts me to deliver.

Practice open book management

An emerging style of management cultivating workplace trust is OBM, or Open Book Management. It’s the practice of being transparent about company finances with your teammates and educating them on important financial aspects of the business. Employees can take part in tracking the financial success of the company by reporting on different metrics. This doesn’t mean sharing everyone’s salaries, but give your team an overview of important stats and milestones.

I didn’t know this management style existed until starting at GQueues. I love that I get a more direct view into how my work contributes to GQueues’ performance. The whole team has a better understanding of why what they do matters.

It’s one thing to do the work required of your role, but when you’re connected to why that work counts, you have more personal stake. Open Book Management makes us more invested in performing well. We recognize it’s possible for our actions to make a difference. And we’re more understanding when something has to change to turn around a downward trend.

Open Book Management not only keeps everyone aligned with how the company is doing, but the inherent transparency is fundamental to a trusting work environment. Nothing essential is kept hidden. Honesty is the best policy, so let your team know what’s up by opening up the books.

Listen to different perspectives

Part of being a good leader is the ability to accept someone else’s ideas. It’s easy to think you know best when you’re in a management position. You have insight into the company that your employees may not have, and that perspective is valuable when it comes to decision making. But to cultivate trust in the workplace, your team needs to know you’re open to other perspectives. It makes a huge difference when your team members feel heard and their opinions are acknowledged.

Let someone else take the lead on a project. Delegate work someone else may be better suited for. Hold a brainstorming meeting so everyone on the team can add their ideas. Everyone’s perspective of the business is valuable. Your sales and customer support teams have valuable insights into customer experience that your developers or team leads may not have. At GQueues, our development team checks in with the customer support team so they can stay informed about what our customers are regularly coming up against and the kinds of features that would make a difference for them. They know what should be worked on first because they listen to our team’s insights.

It’s important to make space for perspectives other than your own. When people feel heard, trust comes naturally. Offering the opportunity for those opinions to be shared and listening demonstrates that you’re willing to trust other perspectives. Even if you don’t agree, and you end up going in a different direction, explain why you decided not to take their feedback so everyone understands. Trust can survive disagreements.

Build trust in the workplace that lasts

Put all of these practices together, and you’ve got the start of a thriving culture of trust in your business. Remember that trust is built up over time through small actions, so give these a try and see how your team can benefit. Don’t forget that giving trust can mean receiving trust in return. And a little vulnerability goes a long way. 😊

About the author
Jordan Matthews
Customer Care Specialist

When I'm not writing blog posts and help articles, I'm chatting with customers. I help you get the answers you're looking for so GQueues runs as smoothly as possible for you and your teams. And who would I be without my oatmilk latte in the morning? ☕️

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