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Workplace blogs

Seven Ways to Build Trust at Work

Trust me on this: All relationships are built on a foundation of trust. Your customers need to trust you before they’ll do business with you, employees want to be led by leaders they trust, and they want to work for organizations they trust. Leaders need to be able to trust their employees. A lack of trust creates silos, low morale, and dampens innovation. It ramps up stress and increase employee turnover rates. Some economists suggest that a lack of trust costs companies millions of dollars a year. At an individual level, employees who are highly trusted achieve greater career success in any work environment. Here are seven ways to build trust.

  1. Actions Speak Louder Than Words. Trite perhaps, but hey, when you’re talking about trust the only way to build it is through actions. When you say you’re going to do something by a certain date, do it! (It’s not rocket surgery.) And if you want to build trust fast remember the old service delivery cliché: under promise and over deliver. If you always do a little extra and michael-kerrfaster than expected, your trust edge will soar.
  2. Communicate With Candor. High-trust organizations are open books when it comes to communicating. Semler Industries, for example, saves a seat at their board meetings for any employee to attend. Their financial books are completely open to every employee. Open communication fosters trust; closed communication fosters an environment of fear and suspicion. And you simply cannot communicate enough if you are trying to retain trust during a period of rapid change or turmoil.
  3. Communicate With Authenticity. We trust people when they seem to be the real deal. So anything you can do to come across as more human and genuine builds trust. Using plain language builds trust. Making eye contact, being present, being accessible, and actively listening builds trust.
  4. Be Vulnerable. Some leaders fear that sharing fears and emotions might make them appear weak, whereas inspiring leaders understand that being vulnerable makes them stronger leaders and that being vulnerable builds trust.
  5. Admit Your Weaknesses, Admit What You Don’t Know or Can’t Do! The employee handbook for the software company Valve includes a page about what they don’t do very well. Help wanted ads that offer more realistic, brutally honest descriptions of the actual work, receive more applicants. Leaders who talk about their weaknesses tend to score higher on trust surveys. Companies such as Zappos, that routinely recommend competitors when they can’t fulfill an order, score through the roof when it comes to trust.
  6. Say You’re Sorry. When you need to apologize, apologize. A fast and sincere apology can do wonders to either restore or maintain trust.
  7. Have a Sense of Humor. Numerous studies have shown a positive correlation between humor and trust – we tend to trust people more who share an open, healthy sense of humor because humor helps us come across as more human and more real.

For more ideas on how to build trust in your workplace and to create a workplace culture that rocks, contact Michael Kerr,



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