The Importance of Trust at Work

The foundation of every healthy relationship is trust.  Now that work has evolved from a command and control environment (For emerging professionals: this was a leadership style where employees just did what their manager said to do, when they were told to do it – no individual thinking, ugh) to a cognitive, collaborative, shared-success environment (yay), strong, trustful relationships are critically important.

What is trust?

In the workplace, every employee is an interdependent part of the whole organization.  We rely on each other to contribute to its success. Because a company’s employees are interlinked, we support, complement, or enhance each other’s efforts. To achieve personal and company-wide success, we need to do what we say we will do when we say we will do it and at a good quality. Trust exists when employees can rely on one another.

Why is trust important in the workplace?

Trust is a foundational core value of any successful organization, whether explicitly stated as a stand-alone value or implicit in defined values. Without trust, individuals will second guess others’ behaviors, question the ability of co-workers to do their job, point blame at others, and possibly do the job of co-workers to ensure personal success. This behavior is a clear demonstration of distrust, and it can undermine a co-worker’s creditability, confidence, productivity, and willingness to help out when additional resources are needed.  In the past, some organizations believed this behavior was acceptable and even productive. It is not.  It is a “succeed at all cost” mentality, without consideration for the individuals who will feel pushed aside.  This behavior leads to job responsibility ambiguity, promotes finger-pointing, disorder, and chaos.

With robust and mutual trust, individuals do not play the blame game, but instead, they take responsibility for their actions.  And if they make a mistake, colleagues are much more willing to pitch in and help fix it.  With strong trust, employees support each other’s efforts, ensuring the success of the entire team.

Also, employees waste time and energy, contemplating co-workers’ behaviors and intentions when there is a lack of trust. In a trusting environment, employees focus on how to achieve shared objectives and finish the tasks at hand, which is a much more productive use of time.  Trust creates an open environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their struggles and asking for help to reach their potential.

Be a Trusted Colleague

The best way to ensure you are trusted is to be trusting.  When we engage in new relationships with a trusting attitude, we are more likely to be trusted.  At work, everyone is working towards common goals.  Baseless mistrust stifles our creativity, productivity, and ability to collaborate with others effectively.

Additional steps to demonstrating your trustworthiness:

  • Communicate, communicate, communicated. It is almost impossible to over-communicate.  Ineffective communication continues to be the most significant business issue.  To overcome this problem, it pays to communicate in detail, often. Start by openly sharing information.  Withholding information leads to mistrust, even when unintentionally withheld.  It is easy to get wrapped up in completing our daily tasks and forget to share things we’ve learned.  If you discover new data, learn of a more efficient way of doing something, be sure to add telling others about it to your to-do list, and check it off.  Sharing what you have learned with anyone who might benefit from it strengthens the entire organization.
  • Take action and responsibility. Do what you say you will do when you say you will do it.  You can integrate this action into the overcommunicate category too. Keep those who rely on you up-to-date on your progress.  If you believe you are going to miss a deadline, get ahead of any negative impacts by telling those who are relying on you to complete your task.  Being upfront will not only give everyone a chance to define a new plan to achieve a common goal, but it will strengthen your trustworthiness with others.
  • Don’t widely complain. When frustrated, it is easy to complain about a situation and even point blame at others. Frustration is a valid emotion, so it should be recognized.  But one of the best paths to career advancement is to propose solutions to problems versus complaining about them.  Focusing your energies on defining solutions will strengthen your critical thinking, which is an essential skill needed in today’s workplace.
  • Avoid gossiping. Gossiping can cause mistrust.  Even in the most transparent organizations, there exists information that needs to be held in confidence.  If you are associated with “the gossiping crowd,” you will likely not be trusted with such sensitive information, which will curb your career growth and advancement.

All employees in an organization want to be successful in their careers and commit to positively contributing to the success of their employer. Trust is a foundational value that enables individuals to work together collaboratively, leading to individual and organizational success.