Trust at Work — Why It’s Essential

Female managerTrust is the basis of all relationships and although perhaps most of us would first think about personal relationships and the importance of trust in them, work is also about relationships and trust is equally important at the office. Think about it, if you can trust your co-workers and your boss, or your team if you’re a team leader or manager, work will go much more smoothly than if everyone is suspicious and distrustful of everyone around. Building and maintaining trust at work is a continual process that brings benefits for all parties.

Workplace expert Nan S. Russell says there are ten ingredients of a trust-based work relationship, and they’re much like the ingredients of any relationship. Starting with the fact that a successful relationship holds mutual benefits, Russell goes on to list factors such as bringing the best of your personality into the relationship, being honest, trustworthy and tolerant, and investing your time, commitment and communication in making this relationship work. Trust-based relationships mean people showing genuine concern and compassion about the other’s problems, being polite, inclusive and appreciative of their efforts and always aiming to give more than you get, but without forgetting your own interests, of course. Trust is also about respecting others, acknowledging their achievements and helping them perform at the top of their abilities.

It may sound easier said than done but it doesn’t really take this much effort — just treat the others in the same way that you want to be treated by them. There’s hardly a person who wants to be ignored and disrespected, isn’t there? If all the ingredients of a trust-based relationship are in place, or at least most of them, it will drive engagement among employees and that’s something that’s been a big problem for companies recently. Engagement makes us more productive, more willing to cooperate with our co-workers, more accountable and even more creative. At the end of the day, it makes us happier about what we do and happiness is the key to great performance at work.

If you’re wondering whether you’re doing enough to build and sustain trust-based relationships at work, here are six steps of developing trust at work suggested by business consultant Pat Mayfield. The first step is honesty, even if the information you’re sharing could be to your disadvantage. Next comes using good judgement, which means protecting the personal information of anyone you work with and being careful about excessive truth-telling which could have the opposite to the desired effect. The third stage of building trust is being consistent, in words and actions, fulfilling your promises and doing the job that’s been assigned to you. A fourth step is being honest in your nonverbal communication, including direct eye contact (but without intent staring, of course) and an open posture. There’s a lot about nonverbal communication online, read some if you think you can improve yours. Fifth on Mayfield’s list is a mutually beneficial attitude, that is, avoiding a self-centered approach at work and building mutually beneficial relationships. Last is a special advice for leaders and how to be a strong one. Leaders, says Mayfield, are not afraid to ask the tough questions, they focus on issues and their solutions, not on personalities and they set an example for those around them with their accountability and responsibility.