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.