Trust in the workplace

Trust is an expectation that another party will not allow you to be harmed at a time when you are vulnerable. Your willingness to trust another party is affected by your history with that party and your personality.
Trust is an expectation that another party will not allow you to be harmed at a time when you are vulnerable. Your willingness to trust another party is affected by your history with that party and your personality. To a large degree, trust is a history-dependent phenomenon. Obviously, we cannot trust strangers as much as we can trust people we have long-standing relationships with. As we become more familiar with an individual or a group, we gradually allow ourselves to be vulnerable to them.

You may be a skillful, effective employer but if you don’t trust your personnel and the opposite, then the chances of improving and expanding the business you deal with, are extremely limited. It is no secret that getting great things done depends on the ability to work well with other people. Good relationships are even more essential for success in a complex world where there are an increasing number of specialists and no one person can know everything.

Since trust is such a fundamental cornerstone of your organization’s success, you’ll find it is a critical component in leadership success and in any culture change you pursue. It is the cement that bonds coworkers and the retention magnet that keeps and engages your most wanted employees. These five factors will account for much of why you may not experience the trust you want in your organization. Tway defines trust as, “the state of readiness for unguarded interaction with someone or something.” He developed a model of trust that includes three components. He calls trust a construct because it is “constructed” of these three components: “the capacity for trusting, the perception of competence, and the perception of intentions.”

Thinking about trust as made up of the interaction and existence of these three components makes trust? Trust, of course, is a key cornerstone of an organization’s culture, and it cannot be created overnight. Trust is built and strengthened by many small and big actions leaders in an organization perform day in and day out. Trust is often compared to fine chinaware. Like a beautiful piece of chinaware, trust must be handled with the care it deserves; once broken, it is extremely difficult to rebuild. Therefore, leaders have the extra burden to promote, preserve, and enhance trust in every way they can. Recent research analyzes that workers do not care only about the money. They want to be educated at work, to take initiatives and also play a part in resolving problems that occur. The capacity for trusting means that your total life experiences have developed your current capacity and willingness to risk trusting others.

The perception of competence is made up of your perception of your ability and the ability of others with whom you work to perform competently at whatever is needed in your current situation. The perception of intentions, as defined by Tway, is your perception that the actions, words, direction, mission, or decisions are motivated by mutually-serving rather than self-serving motives.

So why is it important to have a trusting workplace? And how do you know if you have one? Studies show that a trusting workplace increases employees’ level of happiness, work effort, productivity, and engagement.

Trust also provides an environment that encourages open communication and promotes people to share their ideas. When people feel comfortable sharing their ideas, there is a greater capacity for innovation within an organization keeping a company current and relevant in the marketplace. Even when dealing with uncomfortable situations, if you are honest and up front it will make things easier for everyone. What you say and what you do represent who you are. Even if they don’t like what you are saying, if you say it honestly, compassionately and tactfully they will respect and trust you. Your employees’ level of trust will also be determined by how well you keep confidences and don’t disclose discussions that have been held in private. They have to know they can talk with you about sensitive subjects and that the information they share with you will be kept in strict confidence. Confidentiality is critical in all aspects of your job. This also applies to never discussing one employee with another, except in positive terms. Any problems you are having with a team member must be kept between you and that employee, and your supervisor, if applicable.

Studies have also shown that there is a significant correlation between trust and performance. A workplace that has trust infused in all its relationships – trust between employees and their supervisors, trust between employees and higher management, and trust between employees and other employees – is much more organized and productive than one that is not focused on building trust.

First off, when there’s trust between employees and supervisors, supervisors are more tuned into what’s going on behind the scenes. High-trust businesses encourage employees to be upfront and honest.

Interesting practice that works to establish trust is having an open book policy. With an open book policy in place, everyone knows how the company is doing and your workers feel like they play an active role in the company. There are also no surprises, people don’t fear the unknown – everyone knows what’s coming down the road – and there’s little room for miscommunication. On the other extreme, a high degree of distrust creates quite a mess: a climate of fear and anxiety would make productive work nearly impossible, shifting the focus from flowing collaboration to suspicious second-guessing, guarded (if any) participation, and probably a pattern of conflict avoidance or passive-aggressiveness. Worse, our moral judgments about each other’s untrustworthiness make resolution of these problems quite unlikely.Communication is important, since it provides the artery for information and truth. By communicating the organization’s vision, management defines where it’s going. By communicating its values, the methods for getting there are established.

Employees come to work with an implicit trust that their managers are always working for the best interest of the company and its employees. That trust should not and cannot ever be taken for granted. Transparency is the best way to build trust in the workplace. In recent times, too many employees have watched corporations lie, and conceal information from their employees. In many cases, the results ended in major layoffs, indictments, and even total closures of international companies. It’s no wonder employees aren’t totally distrustful of their organization. Unfortunately, every time a corporation makes the news for fraud all other companies suffer from added mistrust from their employees. Therefore, it is imperative that every company make it a point to communicate information freely. Creating a company mission of transparency will build trust. Communicate in good times and bad will show your employees that you are not hiding information from your employees.

Trust is established when even the newest rookie, a part-timer, or the lowest paid employee feels important and part of the team. This begins with management not being aloof, as well as getting out and meeting the troops. This should be followed by leaders seeking opinions and ideas (and giving credit for them), knowing the names of employees and their families and treating one and all with genuine respect. When employees feel everyone is pulling together to accomplish a shared vision, rather than a series of personal agendas, trust results. This is the essence of teamwork. When a team really works, the players trust one another. We all know intuitively what’s “right” in nearly every situation. Following this instinctive sense, and ignoring any personal consequences will nearly always create respect from those around us. From this respect will come trust.

Work trust, once destroyed, is difficult to regain. When trust has been violated in an important relationship, it should be repaired. In short, the process of repairing trust requires the “violator” to apologize, ask for forgiveness, and make reparations. Not all relationships survive violations of trust. The “victim” has to believe that the benefits of being in the relationship justify the work required to repair the trust. Trust in your work organization and in your coworkers is fundamental to your happiness and success at work. This is because trust is the cornerstone of the work culture of a successful company. In a work culture that encourages transparent communication, thoughtful risk, experimentation, employee motivation, goal achievement, employee empowerment, and employee engagement – all hallmarks of effective organizations – work trust is paramount. Without trust, these and other desired work behaviors won’t occur.

Open your ears and accept criticism from employees or colleagues. It’s hard for every person to accept comments – especially negative – but in order to lead you will have to. Always listen to other ideas, suggestions and encourage open discussions. That doesn’t mean, in case you are the manager that you don’t decide according to your facts. If you really want to get understand how your employees rate workplace trust, develop an employee feedback survey to determine what areas you and your organization need to improve on to increase the level of trust. The sooner you identify the areas of needed improvement, the sooner you can put a plan of action into place to increase your employees’ productivity, engagement, and level of happiness. The benefits of trust are immeasurable. Managers who are fully trusted can expect much more loyalty and commitment from their key stakeholders. They are more forgiving for unexpected errors if they have been kept informed and are used to mistake-free delivery. Where trust is strong, perfectionism is unnecessary.

References About Trust Relationships

– Dirks, Kurt T., Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 85(6), Dec, 2000. pp. 1004-1012.
– Jones, Del, Gannett News Service, 2001.
– Meyer, R.C., Davis, J. H., and Schoorman, F. S., Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 1995.
– Tway, Duane C., A Construct of Trust, Dissertation, 1993.
– Tway, Duane C., Unpublished Paper, Leadership and Trust: An Imperative for the Transition Decade and Beyond, 1995.