Viewpoints & Articles

Behaviours That Can Develop And Maintain Trust In The Workplace

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” 
Ernest Hemingway

If I were to identify the single most important ingredient for effective collaboration, I would say without hesitation, that it would be building and sustaining trust. Being able to trust someone and be trusted by someone is so critical that without it, you have nothing. At its most basic level, trust is the confidence people have that you will act in their best interest. Quite simply, you get out what you put in, because in order to get trust you need to give it. There really is no single action that will create trust. Trust is built over time by consistently exhibiting a number of behaviours and values that we’ll be looking at in this article.

Regardless of whether you work remotely or are co-located with your team, if you adhere to these golden rules, you’ll be assured of forging and maintaining a great collaborative relationship with your co-workers.
So let’s take a deeper dive into what these pillars of trust encompass:

Say what you mean and mean what you say

Sincerity is the assessment that you are honest. It’s about saying what you mean and meaning what you say so that you can be believed and be taken seriously. It also means that when you express an opinion, it is valid. People will question your sincerity when you don’t act in accordance with what you say. 

It’s very important to ensure that you are sincere in your transactions with fellow colleagues. A lack of sincerity is a slap in the face to anyone on the receiving end of disingenuous behaviour. Being a sincere colleague will go a long way in adding credibility to what you say and do. 

The evaluation of how sincere you are being is that you are telling the truth as you see it and that you actually mean what you say. Giving people a reason to assess that you are sincere is called congruence. Internal congruence involves being honest with yourself and making sure you believe and are committed to what you are saying. External congruence involves being honest and straightforward with others. 

So when focusing on building and sustaining trust through sincerity, consider the following top tips for our first golden rule:

  • Be intentional about what you say to people
  • Be intentional about what you say when talking about your interests, beliefs and expectations
  • Check your internal congruence. Are you being honest with yourself, making sure you actually believe and are committed to what you are saying?
  • Are you being consistent, honest and straightforward with others? Is what you are saying now to your colleague consistent with what you said to them in the past? Check your external congruence

Walk the talk 

In additional to saying what you mean and meaning what you say, being able to build and sustain trust also involves walking the talk. This is our second golden rule.

People will immediately recognize when you advocate one value with your words but demonstrate the opposite of that value through your actions. This will undermine your trustworthiness as a leader or co-worker. By always seeking to act in a manner consistent with your words you not only lead by example but you build trust. 

Walking the talk comes down to reliability. It’s about meeting the commitments you make and keeping to your promises. And this, in itself, can provide challenges. Indeed, a common problem with not being able to walk the talk is overpromising. This will automatically set you up for failure so when walking the talk, think about how realistic it is to meet the expectations of that colleague who wants you to fulfil a request.

Consider the following top tips:

  • Before responding to a request, make sure you’re in a position to fulfil it
  • Seek further clarification if you don’t fully understand a request. Any ambiguity may lead to a request not being correctly fulfilled
  • When offering to do something, be clear about what it is you will do and possibly what you won’t be doing

Be accountable

Being accountable and demonstrating your accountability will go a long way to sustaining trust. It can be particularly distasteful for many when accountability is not demonstrated. 

To maintain the respect and trust of co-workers, don’t hesitate to own your mistakes. Contact the affected parties as soon as possible to apologize and offer solutions for possible remedial actions. Invite others to offer advice and provide you with their perspective on the situation.

Here are some tips for being accountable, our third golden rule:

  • Stand up and be counted. If you have been responsible for a discrepancy, don’t be afraid to own it
  • Don’t deflect or minimize a problem you need to deal with
  • Be timely and don’t drag your feet, deal with an issue head on and in the most constructive way possible

Actively listen

For our fourth golden rule, I’d ask you to reflect on your listening skills, because being a good listener can go a long way to building trust. 

Taking the time to listen to understand the opinion of others demonstrates respect and acknowledges the other person’s perspective. People invariably trust leaders who acknowledge their ideas and opinions. Listening for understanding does not mean that you must agree with others, but it does require that you truly want to hear what others have to say and are open to their ideas. 

Consider these tips to becoming a good listener:

  • Don’t interrupt – avoid verbal collisions and allow your co-worker plenty of time to say what they need to say
  • Demonstrate that you’ve understood what has been said by paraphrasing – restating the main elements of what you have heard but by using different words. This reassures the other party that you are listening
  • If relevant, ask probing questions to demonstrate a genuine interest in the conversation you are having

Foster a blame-free culture

For golden rule number five, think about the environment you work in. 

Interacting with your co-workers openly and directly builds trust and commitment to the team. If you are a leader, ensure you create an environment where people are not afraid to be honest and open. As much as accountability is a critical element to building and sustaining trust, so is promoting an environment where if mistakes are made, no blame is apportioned. 

People make mistakes. An honest mistake needs to be addressed in an appropriate manner. Listen, work together to ensure there are lessons learned and provide coaching instead of admonishment.

  • Don’t rebuke 
  • Look at the source of the problem and address in a constructive manner
  • Invite honesty and make sure your door is open 

Other top tips that will help you build and sustain trust include: 

  • Meet face-to-face to build relationships if you are working remotely
  • Focus on establishing relationships, and not just assigning tasks, promote a shared sense of identity and belonging
  • Quickly demonstrate your capabilities, your integrity and your care for others
  • Maintain a sense of presence through frequent communications and fast responses
  • Keep the whole project visible to team members, not just the part
  • Work together to determine the best way to handle conflict on the team
  • Recognize and celebrate the achievements of the team 

 “Trust is the blood of teams – the river that carries it along, that pulses with life, that brings thought and power to everything the team attempts.”

 Robbins and Finley in Why Teams Don’t Work.

Trust is such an important thing that if you are a leader or a member of a team, you should spend time reflecting on what you do and what you should do in order to create and sustain trust. 

By following the best practices outlined in this article, there really should be no excuses for being complacent about such an important component of effective collaboration.

By Eugene Piccinini, Senior Learning Consultant, TMA World

TMA World's Viewpoints