062. How to Build Trust at Work

You may be surprised to know, as a career coach I find it important to understand my client’s current situation in order to best help her achieve her desired results. Often times, when I ask background questions regarding a client’s current state, she eludes to wanting to escape a stressful work environment flooded in miscommunication and distrust. This scenario is quite common and plays out more often than most would like to think. But here’s the thing, you will have to deal with difficult coworkers in any workplace or industry. Even as an entrepreneur, you are likely to be faced with difficult vendors, peers or clients from time to time.



Instead of jumping ship at the first sign of confrontation, employ specific techniques to defuse the situation. In the workplace, every person has a set of roles and responsibilities. Each person is expected to perform the designated set of duties. When those expectations are not being met or are perceived to not being met, there is a decrease in reliability and ultimately trust. Trust is defined as a confident dependence on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. Simply put trust is an assured reliance on a person or thing.


For example, trust that your car will take you to and from work every day, until one cold morning your car doesn’t start. Now that you’ve had this experience your trust in your cars ability to perform its job diminishes. So what do you do? When you lose trust in your car, you start thinking about buying another car or alternate means of transportation.


The same applies in the workplace. You trust that a coworker will do what he is supposed to do, filling his expected roles and responsibilities. When he does not, you may start to doubt his competency, stop relying on that person and it may affect your working relationship.


Trust in the workplace is the difference between fellow colleagues who know they can rely on one another and a collection of individuals who usually look out for themselves. To foster a positive, team-oriented work environment all employees need to be able to rely on the others to do what they say they will do, consider the needs and interests of others, respect and value one another’s skills and ideas and share a commitment to achieving common goals.



A common reason people give for untrustworthy behavior is that the other person did something hurtful, suspicious, or wrong first. When both people in an untrusting relationship believe the other person is at fault, a cycle of mistrust begins and can be difficult to stop. When one person is untrustworthy, it can provoke the other person to respond in an untrustworthy way (which is illustrated by the broken arrow). This response only confirms the first person’s suspicions and encourages more untrustworthy behaviors. This cycle continues because both people believe the other one started it and should be the one to admit fault.



Some common behaviors or actions that lead to mistrust in the workplace are acting and speaking inconsistently, not following up and through, seeking personal rather than shared gain, withholding information, lying or telling half-truths, being close-minded, not doing what you say you are going to do, not listening to what customers or employees say, ignoring needs or requests and lack of communication.


On the other hand, common behaviors or actions that build trust in the workplace are be visible, spend quality time with employees or customers, establish and maintain integrity, be prepared, communicate with intention, be transparent, have a win/win attitude, communicate vision and values, consider all employees equal, focus on shared goals, trust others and demonstrate you are trustworthy.


When your workplace is on one accord everyone reaps the benefits. High trust organizations outperform low trust organizations often resulting in satisfied customers loyal to the organization. By positive comments made by satisfied customers they generate more customers. Remember that a satisfied customer will tell two or three other people but an unsatisfied customer will tell ten or more people. Working together as a team results in a better working environment which is more stable and productive. Many studies have shown that working together as a team in a collaborative environment not only improves working conditions but also results in increased productivity and customer satisfaction. Additional benefits of trust in the workplace include enhanced innovation, stronger partnering, better execution, and heightened employee loyalty.


The way we behave at work significantly affects the degree of trust that others have in us. Trust can be viewed as having respect, understanding and support for one another. These are key factors we must consider if we want to increase the trust our colleagues have in us. How well do you inspire others to trust you? How much time do you spend on actions that build trust in the workplace?


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