14 Tips for Building Trust at Work (And Why It Matters)
Updated October 4, 2022
Published July 23, 2020
Jamie Birt is a career coach with 5+ years of experience helping job seekers navigate the job search through one-to-one coaching, webinars and events. She’s motivated by the mission to help people find fulfillment and belonging in their careers.
A cohesive and enjoyable workspace starts with team members who get along and trust each other. When coworkers feel comfortable in their work environment and trust their colleagues, they may feel more empowered to achieve success on behalf of themselves and the company. If you're looking for methods of bringing members of your workplace together, learning how to build trust is a great way to help develop colleague relationships and a sense of community.
In this article, we define what it means to strengthen trust in the workplace, explain the importance of a trusting work environment and provide a list of 14 tips on building trust among your colleagues.
What does it mean to build trust in the workplace?
Trust is a critical part of all interactions that we have as humans. It also plays an integral role in communicating in the workplace. Trust among coworkers means:
Being able to have a sense of security and confidence when dealing with someone
Having the ability to predict that someone may act in specific ways and be dependable
Earning a level of credibility that has built up over time
You can benefit from a mutual trust with loved ones, family members and friends. Trust allows you to have well-rounded and mutually beneficial relationships. The same is true in the workplace. A high level of trust creates a more positive employee experience and can also lead to a more productive workplace where people feel safe and respected.
Why is building trust important?
Learning how to build trust at work is critical if you're going to be successful as an employee, manager or effective leader. Building trust means that through your actions, you make someone else feel comfortable relying on you, feel confident in your abilities and your intentions and feel motivated to work with you.
A trustful workplace typically has a culture that is developed through values, hard work and strong teamwork. Teamwork increases productivity, too, so having trust in the workplace can also help make a company successful. With more people working from home as part of a virtual team, trust is more important than ever. A remote team must have a high level of trust between members to function at its best.
14 tips for building trust in the workplace
If you want to be part of a team where your coworkers appreciate your work, feel comfortable coming to you for help and where productivity is high because everyone works together well, it's important to build trust first. Here are 14 actionable steps to boost trust with your managers and coworkers:
1. Follow through on promises
An easy way to build trust is by following through on doing what you say you intend to do. If someone is relying on you to perform a task or finish a project, you could break their trust by not completing what you should. If you know you can't do something because you either lack the know-how or time, be honest and upfront with your teammate so you don't end up over-promising and under-delivering.
2. Communicate with coworkers
Another way to build trust is by communicating effectively with your coworkers via email or in person. Practice standard email etiquette to make sure your email is professional, yet easy to understand and friendly. Be mindful of the tone you use so you don't send the wrong message to your recipient.
When engaging in face-to-face conversations, pay special attention to your nonverbal cues and tone of voice, as both can influence how your coworkers interpret your words and react to what you're saying. Actively listen so they know you value their words.
3. Become a mentor
If you have something to offer in a mentorship capacity, speak with your manager about the opportunity to take on the role. You can mentor newcomers to the company or current coworkers who would benefit from training on a tool or office process. If you're mentoring a new hire, you can establish trust by showing them around the office and introducing them to how your workplace functions. They may come to rely on you to help them navigate their new role.
4. Be honest
It's important to be honest with your managers and coworkers. Honesty builds trust and contributes to a culture of open communication, value among coworkers and transparency. Always tell the truth, even if it's awkward. When you're honest, you are letting your office mates know they're important to you.
5. Get to know your team
Getting to know your teammates can build trust because you're showing genuine interest in their personal lives. When you get to know your coworkers, you may find that you work better together, get along well and understand each other more, which helps when working on partner projects.
Get to know your team by asking them about their weekend plans, going out to lunch with no work talk allowed and performing an icebreaker for new hires, so they can get to know the group and vice versa. You can also celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries and other milestones in the workplace.
6. Admit to your mistakes
It's likely that, at some point in your career, you may make a mistake at work. The same is true for your managers and coworkers. Not only is it important to admit to your mistakes and accept how your mistake impacted workplace operations, but also to take the steps to rectify any wrongs. Admitting that you're at fault and want to work through it to get to a better solution shows integrity. Integrity leads to trust.
7. See the value in each team member
Everyone in your workplace is there for a reason, whether it's their experience, knowledge or how willing they are to learn and grow within a role. It's important to celebrate the uniqueness they bring to the organization. When you can acknowledge their personal value, you're letting them know that you see their hard work and place great emphasis on what they contribute to the group.
To show them you see their value, consider approaching them for expert guidance if you need help on a task. Thank them for taking the time to explain something to you and offer to help them in return.
8. Participate in office activities
You can choose to mostly keep to yourself or be a more active part of the group. While the first shouldn't disqualify you from building trust, the second can help make trust build faster and more naturally.
Explore ways to interact with coworkers during meetings and beyond. Listen actively when someone is talking, offer suggestions if asked, accept feedback graciously and brainstorm together when needed. A part of participating also means being willing to show trust in your team rather than only trying to gain trust for yourself.
9. Help your team
Another way to build trust is by helping your teammates. If a coworker has taken on a lot of projects and you notice they're having a hard time keeping up, offer to help. Ask if there is anything you can do that can make things a little easier.
Helping also spans into courtesy, so hold doors open for your coworkers, offer to carry file boxes or help them navigate a new computer program that they find confusing. When you're kind, you're letting your coworkers know they can trust you.
10. Operate with values
As long as you continue to operate with workplace values, you should be able to build trust easily. Having integrity requires you to be honest, behave honorably and treat others with respect. Don't sacrifice your values and what you believe just to appease a manager or try to get ahead. Your coworkers might see the integrity, honesty and hard work you bring to the team and they trust that it's real.
Related: 6 Steps To Discover Your Core Values
11. Build trust gradually
Trust doesn't happen overnight. It's important to realize it builds gradually, so don't be too pushy or do anything that's too out of the ordinary for your personality in an attempt to build immediate trust. These actions could have the opposite reaction and cause distrust. Instead, be genuine, so others know that what you say and do is not an act and that you deserve trust.
12. Admit to lack of knowledge and experience
It's normal to not know everything at work. Your coworkers are valuable because they each bring something unique to the office to help it run well. If a manager or coworker asks about your experience in something or knowledge of a subject, be honest because it's for the greater good of the office and can let your coworkers know that they can trust you.
When you let a teammate know that you don't know how to do something, that doesn't mean you're admitting your faults. Instead, it's putting everyone in a position to start the project right with people who have the experience needed for it to succeed. If there is something you don't know but is obviously an important part of your office operations, ask your manager if you can get training to expand your knowledge base.
13. Be inclusive
To build trust, try to include your coworkers in office events whenever you're able. While it may be appropriate to have a favorite work buddy, try not to alienate other members of the team. Include your coworkers in group brainstorming sessions, ask everyone if they want to go on a group lunch and take the same amount of time with everyone to engage in personal conversation.
14. Take your responsibilities seriously
If you're responsible for something, make sure you take it seriously. This means that if your job involves sorting customer comments in a filing system, then make sure that gets done. This goes for any task in any role. Otherwise, your managers and coworkers may need to pick up your slack by completing the task or project for you, which can keep them from trusting you as a valuable member of the team.
Ways to demonstrate work ethic:
Put away distractions
Ask for help to identify areas for improvement
Spend your time wisely on tasks that align with goals
Organize your notes, inbox and workspaces for increased focus, motivation and time management
Take breaks throughout the day to avoid burnout
Identify motivators such as tasks, goals or colleagues
Practice time management to complete quality, on-time work and be more present in meetings
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