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How to Rebuild Trust in the Workplace?

August 14, 2020 Kaylene Eckels

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s an essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”- Stephen Covey

When I think about significant relationships in my life, some of the most important ones began in the workplace. The book, The Trusted Advisor, by Charles H. Green and Andrea P., however, teaches us that “Trust requires Trusting and Being Trusted.” What this means is for trust to exist; someone must do the trusting (think risk), and someone must be trustworthy. Trust, therefore, is a choice. The moment you trust another, you choose to believe them.

Merriam Webster defines trust as a firm belief in the character, strength, or truth of someone or something. 

When it comes to our workplace, it is essential to be trustworthy regardless of your role. Trust validates your leadership. We have all seen examples where people are sought out for their feedback because they are trusted. You will often see team members validating information from one another v. supervisors. Why? Because they have a trusting relationship.

Leaders can destroy the trust of their team by:

  • Promising what is not possible and cannot be delivered
  • Withholding information or lack of clear communication
  • Not showing trust on their team member
  • Prioritizing process over coaching and development which build relationships
  • Manipulating the truth or leaving out crucial information
  • Not swiftly resolving conflict within the team

If you do any of the above, it can lead to your employees mistrusting you. 

Knowing leadership is based on trust; it’s essential to nurture and protect trusting relationships.

If you feel trust between you and someone you lead has been compromised or might be at risk, it is critical to take immediate action. Below are four practical strategies that can help you start your journey of rebuilding trust with your team members:

1: Promise only what you can deliver 

You should not promise anything that cannot be provided. It’s crucial to make promises you can keep. You have probably heard the phrase under-promise and over-deliver. This applies when it comes to building trust, although be careful not to take even this to the extreme. When you are deliberate in your words and actions, you can build trust. The bottom line is to do what you say and do it consistently.

2: Believe in your team

Remember, trust is two way. If you trust your team, it will encourage them to trust themselves and you. If you have a lack of confidence in your team, it can manifest through unnecessary micro-management. Set clear expectations and guidelines around checkpoints, so there is clarity, and your team can meet your expectation while feeling trusted to do so.  

When delegating an assignment, you should give your team enough room to make their own decisions in the best way so that they can achieve the goals that are set. When you show your team members, you have faith in them and their ability to take care of business; it will increase confidence and help rebuild trust in you as their leader. 

3: Accept your mistakes

There are times when things don’t go as planned, and you may have to communicate tough messages to your team. If you made a mistake, you must lead by example and own the mistake. In my leadership journey, I have learned that by accepting mistakes, we reflect humility, and most importantly, our team understands that we are all human, and making mistakes is a normal part of life. 

By accepting your mistakes as the leader, you are showing respect and care for your team. Your staff will understand your sincerity and believe in you because you have spoken the truth. Nobody is right 100% of the time.   

4: Solve problems with your team members

It’s not possible to avoid conflict 100% of the time, nor do you want to as conflict can be healthy, even productive when handled effectively. The secret lies in how you handle conflict. If you find yourself in the middle of a heated situation with differing opinions and emotions, you must work to bring people together. Lead with an apology to the team for your part in the conflict and let everyone know you are there to help the team navigate through the conflict constructively. Next, acknowledge everyone’s emotions. You cannot move past tension if you are not willing to validate how others feel. Think of it like acknowledging the elephant in the room. Your team will also get a chance to see where they were wrong and take ownership for their part in the conflict. Once this is done, you can refocus the group on the common goal and viable solutions without all the pent-up emotions that can often cloud our judgment. You may not get 100% buy-in initially but stay the course. 

Your actions will go a long way toward rebuilding respect and trust and set the tone for how to handle disagreements productively in the future

In a Nutshell

Trust is a critical currency that can define your leadership effectiveness. 

 Neither you nor your team can achieve much without it. If trust is lost, take swift action to repair it using the strategies outlined above. It may take time to mend fences, but in the end, both you and your team will be stronger as a result.