pavestep logo white

How to Build Trust in the Workplace


Trust in the workplace is the foundation for creating a healthy corporate culture, enabling a culture of feedback, and retaining engaged employees. When trust is established, employees are more productive, more motivated, and more engaged. They feel comfortable asking their managers for feedback and finding ways to improve their performance.

In contrast, a lack of trust between colleagues can lead to many problems including an unproductive work environment or worse, a toxic work environment. High turnover, underperforming employees, tension between teams and individuals, employee burnout, and lack of motivation are all symptoms of a mistrusting environment.

Managers have an important role in establishing trusting relationships. In this article, we outline some tips for managers to help build trust with their employees.

1) Actively listen to employees

Employees are the most imperative part of an organization. It is essential that managers take time to actively listen to them. Actively listening involves truly letting your employees share their ideas and opinions. Managers should continuously ask questions to better understand their motivations and professional needs. Some questions to ask your employees include:

  • Do you feel that you have sufficient clarity, capacity, and capability to accomplish your goals?
  • Do you ever feel overworked or underworked?
  • Is there an area outside your current role where you feel you could be contributing?
  • What’s one professional skill you’re currently working on?
  • Do you feel like you are reaching your full potential with this position?
  • In a typical workweek, what do you look forward to doing?
  • What do you see on your calendar in the short-term that energizes you?

Asking questions helps demonstrate that you are interested in your employees’ ideas, opinions, struggles, and strengths. Employees who feel heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to perform their best work. If an employee states that they are struggling with a project, brainstorm ways to help them overcome the obstacle. If an employee brings up an important topic, make sure to address that topic in your next interaction. Documenting check-ins with employees is extremely important to help you address prior conversations. If you are a small organization, spreadsheets can suffice for documentation. If your organization has more than 15 people, consider switching to a software (like Pavestep) that helps store all the data.

2) Be consistent

Employees want consistency. If managers set expectations on employee performance, they need to ensure that they are keeping those expectations for every team member. If not, employees can easily become disengaged and frustrated with management.

Consistency also means predictability. Employees that know what to expect in an interaction, meeting, or project feel more confident and prepared, and are therefore more relaxed. Inconsistency on the other hand can lead to an increase in stress. Of course, change (and therefore a disruption in consistency) inevitably happens. If there is a change that is taking place in the organization, managers need to communicate it clearly (check out our previous article on communicating change within the workplace), and be transparent on expectations.

3) Show appreciation

Employee recognition is incredibly important. Employees who receive recognition from their leaders were 34% more likely to trust them. This can be done through simple acts such as giving your employees credit where credit is due – a simple thank you can go a long way to make an employee feel valued.

Moreover, there should be some sort of recognition program in place. This ensures that employee recognition is consistently being valued in the company. These programs can include monetary rewards or non-monetary ways such as gift cards, a shout-out, or flexible work arrangements. Managers can also show appreciation during feedback check-ins. If managers provide specific examples of when an employee did something that elevated the team’s performance or was just a job well done, the employee will feel more appreciated, and it can help them improve their overall performance.

4) Invite upward feedback

Trust is a two-way street; employees should also feel comfortable giving upward feedback to their managers. Upward feedback gives employees an opportunity to help managers in regards to their leadership style or raise any concerns with the management and/or direction of the organization. Managers should ask their employee for feedback. We list some questions below to help initiate that conversation:

  • What could I do (as a manager) to make your work easier/more effective/more productive?
  • Do I follow up frequently with you? How can I improve the clarity or cadence of my communication?
  • Would you like more or less direction from me?
  • Is there a situation/objective/task you’d like my help with?
  • Do you have any questions for me?

If the employee has provided upward feedback, the manager should take accountability for what has been said. They should act! This helps solidify trusting relationships whereby managers and employees can be direct with each other.

How does your organization build trust in the workplace. Let us know!

More to explore

Other Categories