How to Build Trust in a Team

Trust forms the primary foundation of all relationships and has significant consequences on every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Extensive research has demonstrated that building trust in your business team is vital to establishing a positive work culture, ensuring your team can effectively collaborate to accomplish shared business objectives, and encouraging them to put forth their best effort. In contrast, lack of trust hinders performance and productivity, makes your team members less likely to communicate about critical issues, and gives them an incentive to seek employment elsewhere. Building trust not only provides a better environment for your team, but it also leads to better results with clients.

Unfortunately, recent studies show that many workers simply do not trust their managers. This lack of trust has serious repercussions for both the current environment of your workplace and the long-term success of your business. However, if you want to know more about how to build trust in a team, you must first acknowledge that trust is not a “one and done” goal you can accomplish with a few words of affirmation. Instead, trust-building is a complicated process that requires you make a commitment every day during every interaction with your team members. While this may seem like an intimidating prospect, it is certainly possible to build trust with the right strategy.

Does Your Team Trust You?

When your work environment does not actively promote trust building, you cannot expect to receive fully honest answers by simply approaching your employees unexpectedly and asking if they trust you. However, you can gain valuable insight by reviewing research on trust in the workplace and using this information to guide your trust building strategies. A recent global study by EY surveyed 10,000 full-time workers throughout the US and seven other industrialized nations to determine their experiences with trust in the workplace. Only 46% of respondents reported having a “great deal of trust” in their employers, while 39% shared having “some trust” and 15% had “very little” trust or “no trust at all.”

Workers in the last category cited the following top five reasons for this lack of trust:

1. Unfair compensation
2. Lack of equal opportunities to pursue pay raises and promotions
3. Lack of strong leadership among management
4. High employee turnover
5. Insufficient collaboration in the workplace

These factors are highly interrelated and work together to decrease trust within your organization. Lack of strong leadership results in unclear priorities, causing confusion and preventing workers from effectively utilizing their time and skills to achieve business goals. Without strong leadership, workers do not have the knowledge and resources they need to collaborate, leading to lower performance and productivity. As they continue to struggle with their workload without meeting their goals, managers begin to distrust an employee’s motivation or level of commitment to the business and are therefore hesitant to offer incentives for high performers.

When workers feel unfairly compensated for their effort or feel that there are no opportunities to rise within the company and earn more money, they may leave for greener pastures—this may occur even sooner if they receive better offers from the competition. As more workers leave, high turnover fosters further distrust. Often, remaining team members are forced to juggle added responsibilities for no additional pay while management struggles to the fill the open position. This turns distrust into burn-out and resentment and increases your chances of having to fill numerous positions as time progresses.

How to Build Trust in a Team

Fostering trust in your workplace depends on demonstrating to your team that you truly value them and their contributions. Even more importantly, you must show your employees that you are dedicated to helping them succeed. To build trust in your team, take the following steps:

1. Keep Them Informed

Regularly communicate information that is relevant to employee roles and responsibilities and keep them updated on changes that impact their work. Be transparent about the goals of your business and establish a clear connection between these goals and the individual and team tasks they are expected to complete. Your employees should understand the primary objective behind their efforts and how their work is a necessary component of the larger business.

Expressly define your values, teach your team how to act appropriately to support these values, and reference them constantly to keep them in the forefront of their minds. Your employees should be aware of the financial health of the company, both for their own reassurance and to show that you trust them with vital information. The more your team knows about your business plans, they better they can work with management to support these plans. Being fully informed gives them the chance to take advantage of opportunities and prepares them to overcome challenges that may arise.

2. Prioritize Their Work

Help your team members prioritize their work by teaching them how to assess the value of specific tasks, determine how urgent they are, and estimate the effort required to complete these tasks. Then, they can organize them in a useful order to maximize efficiency. Give team members the tools they need to succeed and make sure these tools are easy to find, access, and use. Schedule regular check-ins to reiterate core objectives and give them to the chance to ask questions, clarify misunderstandings, and request additional support. This not only makes it easier for them to reach their goals, but also encourages trust among your team.

3. Set Realistic Goals

Setting goals for your employees is a tricky process that must be handled carefully. If you set goals too low, your team will mistakenly believe that you do not trust them or their ability to meet your demands. If you set goals too high, your team can become overwhelmed by your expectations, causing them fear and prompting them to question your judgement. The goal is to find a middle ground by listening to their concerns and setting realistic goals that challenge them to achieve without overworking them or causing them to lose trust in you, themselves, or the business.

4. Give Them More Autonomy

We have all heard the phrase, “trust is earned, not given.” However, withholding trust by default, granting it to your employees based on a set of predetermined standards without sharing these standards, hinders the development of trust. This practice creates a dynamic in which your employees feel that they must “win” your trust. Worse, refusing to be transparent about your scoring system means you cannot expect them to meet your demands. Trust is not truly something that your team members can earn – it is something you must give them.

One incredibly valuable way to grant trust to your team is to give them more autonomy over their work. Employees in all industries often cite micromanaging as their one of their biggest concerns, as this indicates that their employer does not trust them to perform tasks without constant supervision and feedback. By contrast, giving your team members autonomy demonstrates that you trust them, reinforces their own trust in themselves, and improves confidence across the entire team. By delegating decision-making tasks to individuals or groups as often as possible, you are fostering growth and providing them with additional opportunities for innovation and creative problem solving.

5. Know How to Handle Their Mistakes

When you give your team members autonomy, you are helping them experiment to learn what works and what needs improvement. They will eventually make mistakes, and the way you respond to these mistakes significantly informs the trust in your relationship. Rather than blaming, shaming, or punishing employees for mistakes, remember to view most mistakes as learning opportunities. When your team knows they will not be ridiculed or penalized for mistakes, you are fostering a safe environment and instilling them with the confidence to speak up about their concerns or implement new tactics without fear of losing your support.

6. Model Positive Leadership

Building trust in the workplace requires modeling positive leadership for your team. Teach your managers how to conduct civil, productive discussions in which everyone can collaborate, explore alternative ideas, and reach the best approach to secure the optimal outcome. Set clear expectations, be consistent, and hold yourself and your management team to the same level of accountability you expect from your workers. If you make a mistake, own up to it and use it as an example to help others learn rather than avoiding it or passing blame. You are fostering trust by demonstrating that everyone fails, even you, and you can effectively overcome obstacles by working together as a team.

7. Communicate About Work Culture and Trust Issues

It seems obvious, but the best way to build trust in your team is to regularly communicate with them about work culture and discuss fear and trust as the important business topics they are. Most employees have been trained to keep their concerns private to avoid potential backlash from their managers, but this only ends up creating larger problems in the long term. Make it a point to establish consistent meetings to check in with team members and learn how they are doing. This gives you the chance to identify trust issues and develop strategies for improvement. Encourage your team members to share their thoughts and ask them team-building questions to determine their needs and priorities, such as how they prefer to communicate with their colleagues.

8. Compensate Them Fairly for Their Work

When your employees believe they are fairly compensated for their efforts, they feel like valuable members of a team and will behave accordingly. They will demonstrate higher engagement, work harder, and secure better results. This impacts the entire team by influencing their colleagues to work harder, encouraging collaboration and building trust. Conduct research into local companies who offer similar services or products to determine what they pay their employees for certain positions, consider cost of living, and establish a system for pay raises, promotions, and other benefits.

Build Trust with Negotiation Training

Building trust in your team is imperative for ensuring that your employees feel valued, supported, and encouraged to work together to meet their goals. If you would like to learn more about how to build trust in a team, contact Shapiro Negotiations Institute today to schedule negotiation training for your employees. While they may not recognize these interactions as such, your team engages in negotiations every day, both internally within your organization and externally with other companies, suppliers, and potential clients. Strengthening the negotiation skillset of your team means giving them the resources they need to productively communicate and collaborate with one another. In turn, this fosters trust and allows them to create the valuable professional relationships that are necessary for your business to succeed.

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