How to Build Trust in Relationships at Work

The power to establish and maintain trust in relationships at work is the most important asset one can possess. Establishing trust is a two-way process...

How to Build Trust in Relationships at Work
Building trust in workplace relationships.

The power to establish and maintain trust in relationships at work is the most important asset one can possess. Establishing trust is a two-way process that requires both parties to communicate and be genuine with each other. Being transparent, open, honest, and having integrity will help you build trust with others.

Dos and Dont's in trust building at work

"Do and Do Not" in Workplace Trust-Building

TLDR; Advice for everyone - Here is a list of 5 things to do and 5 more things not to do at work if you are keen to build trust with your coworkers, subordinates and bosses.


  1. Tell the truth. Open up to your colleagues, team members, and managers.
  2. Don't take credit for others' work or ideas. Trying to manipulate the situation to make yourself look good at their expense when the truth will show otherwise - this will backfire on you later in the relationship.
  3. Be upfront while in the workplace. Topics about who you are, what you're working on, or what you want from this person or group of people should not be kept secret.
  4. Don't exaggerate your accomplishments or abilities - even white lies have been shown to ruin workplace relationships over time due to suspicion of the lying person's intentions being insincere or untrustworthy.
  5. Be consistent with what you tell others - if you say something, then be prepared to walk the talk even if it is difficult or uncomfortable for you to do so.


  1. Ask for favors that you know you cannot deliver (like asking for a raise because the boss is leaving - you are just being cunning)
  2. Give inappropriate or false compliments (this will often be a sign that there is a hidden agenda or other ulterior motives). Be insensitive or disrespectful when dealing with others - the old saying, "sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you" is sadly too true.
  3. Demand things from others without being willing to reciprocate - showing appreciation after receiving anything is just as important as demanding something from someone else.
  4. Tread on sensitive topics. Even if the content might not mean much to you, you need to be discreet when dealing with the most sensitive topics involving work or personal lives. Mending a broken heart and inflicting pain on other people's feelings is far easier than trying to fix it later.
  5. Don't gossip about other people being in the wrong, even if you have nothing against them. This will only backfire later on when it becomes common knowledge as it will reflect poorly on you and be a sign that you cannot be trusted.

Professional relationships

Drawing the Line: Professional Relationships at Work

Personal connections can bankrupt trust with others

Your personal relationships should not cross the line and become professional relationships. It can be hard to mend or correct the relationship status if the relationship status has become vague. For example, if you are working for a corporation and have romantic inclinations towards a higher-up, this will be seen as inappropriate. If you do not feel comfortable with the seemingly positive relationship, stop being friends with them (or having personal exchanges) to avoid misunderstandings and confusion. Would you approach a friend when you are not supposed to? Think of your romantic relationship with your boss as the same.

Workplace Politics in Trustbuilding

Don't be overbearing at work. Some people seem to think that by playing certain games in the workplace that they can get ahead or hold on to their job. By doing this, they expose themselves to their personal insecurity about their skills and abilities and may end up being fired. While many companies will have the owner sit on a board and hire professionals to do his or her dirty work, going beyond that line is frowned upon. Be sure that you're working for the right motives. Is it really about your skill level, or is it about grabbing power? If so, your professional relationship with the organization is probably not going to last very long.

Controlling Workplace Politics in the Office
Workplace politics frankly doesn’t need to exist and is often something people are too afraid to confront. However, as managers and owners, we have to interject or lose control of our own workplaces.
Managers can have control over workplace politics and establish trust

Pride, prejudice and trust

Don't envy others and constantly compare yourself to them. When your pride overcomes your thought faculties, you end up losing whatever it is that you valued in the first place. The same applies to prejudice - if you can't find a way to get along with someone, then stop being friends with them. These feelings of envy and prejudice will poison your relationships and make it impossible for you to have any work-related or personal interactions. It's like comparing yourself to an Olympic athlete when you've just learned to tread water, when professionally you should be working together (instead of against each other) for your country to win the Olympic medal.

Best Friends at Work

You should have a best friend at work - someone who will be able to talk things out with you, offer advice and check on how you're doing. Placing confidence in a colleague who you believe will not sell you out or betray you will make you feel secure. Sharing thoughts, ideas and feelings help you process internal information better, and if needed, allows you to better cope with workplace stress. However, don't put so much trust that you would open up your life to them as you may end up breaking any workplace policies if you accidentally divulge secret/need-to-know information. Remain professional relationships and distancing on such matters.

Environment of trust

Creating & Contributing to an Environment of Trust

For trust to happen, relationships should exist in an environment of trust. Such an environment encompasses a culture of trust as well. In a workplace where trust happens, employees become aware of each other's knowledge and skills, which in turn helps foster a productive working environment. It will also help establish a communication connection between management and employees, where none previously exist.

There are 7 key characteristics of an environment of trust:

  1. Respect and trust among the people/employees
  2. Information is shared openly and honestly
  3. A long-term philosophy in all aspects of the organization
  4. A culture that trusts one another and encourage open communication
  5. An environment that fosters values in its employees
  6. A leader that sets the example of trust as a byproduct of his work ethic and values
  7. Consensus that a lack of trust in the organization is no longer the dominant characteristic

If you look at the above characteristics, it becomes clear that it is not enough to have good ethics and morals and make sure your employees know them "out loud". In order to set up a culture of trust, you need to demonstrate trust at every level and there are layers, levels of trust in a working organization where its people practice emotional intelligence. When you make decisions in all areas of your life, including keeping, sharing knowledge or attitude towards other people, you selectively expose your emotions to others. How well you expose or hide emotions and in what kinds of situations is your emotional intelligence.

In environments of trust, employees practice emotional intelligence. The pervasiveness in the active use of emotional intelligence becomes a culture of trust. Employees in this culture are less likely to make untrustworthy decisions, distrust one another, commit fraud, and feel uncomfortable about sharing information. A culture and environment of trust are where every strong relationship begin. (Nothing is stronger than family, right?) While having an environment and culture of trust may not be a guarantee of anything, healthy relationships eliminate possible trust issues.

Managers' role in establishing trust.

How Managers Can Increase Employee Engagement and Trust

Deal with Negative People

When negativity spreads at the office, it causes problems for the entire organization. As a manager, as well as any leader who faces negativity, you must know how to respond to negative and troubling people. Don't let negativity wear on you personally - it will spread to your employees and the entire organization. Take a positive approach towards these people in order to eliminate their negative influence on the workplace.

You can do the following:

  1. Intervene immediately and have the person stop whatever they are doing, with a clear message that there will be zero tolerance for that sort of behavior. As the superior in the organization, it is your job to set the example for your employees - address negativity and deal with it on your own. After all, you have been trusted to take care of something much bigger than yourself.
  2. Have a one-to-one meeting with the person, preferably in person. Be clear on expectations and your point of view - that this behavior will not be tolerated and is an issue for everyone. Be firm when speaking and maintain eye contact as it reinforces the seriousness of the issue.
  3. React timely if negative behavior persists. If the negative behavior continues, you can have a small meeting with the person's direct supervisor to discuss what has happened and what should be done. If there are no takeaways, then this must be addressed at an immediate level - because if unchecked, it could become a much bigger problem for everyone involved.

Honest Communication

It is important that managers communicate effectively and share important information with their employees. Your role in building trust in relationships at work becomes the foundation of trust as you are the manager (leader!) of the employees.

When problems arise, it is important to share information and eliminate judgment and rumor spreading. This helps keep the workplace professional by giving all employees a sense of heightened trust levels and confidence, which in turn decreases stress and increases employee retention. Genuine connection is real and powerful. People will feel it.

Organize Team Meetings to Provide Periodic Updates to Everyone

Organize or have bi-weekly or monthly meetings with all employees, and give each employee an opportunity to provide updates on their work or any other personal issues they would like the rest of the staff to know about. Exercising open communication skills here will keep everyone abreast of what is happening in the workplace and at home. People become more understanding. Tolerant. Organizing a team meeting will also allow you to address why certain things are happening - as opposed to bad information being spread around and creating broken trust later on. People help each other. Constructive criticisms are said and suggestions to fix problems are provided. Relationships matter more to the people.

Organize Team Meetings to Brainstorm Solutions

Many organizations do a great job of discussing problems in the workplace, but they do not discuss solutions. When you devote time and energy to talking about problems, it can help relieve stress and open communication channels between employees - because you are acknowledging that there is a problem. By talking about issues and solutions, everyone is working towards the same goal instead of just noticing that something is wrong. Working toward conflict resolution and problem-solving is a win for the team and organization as a whole. Solutions pay huge dividends, whereas problems create empty pockets.

Organize Team Meetings to Check Emotional Health of People

During employee engagement sessions, you have the opportunity to do a "health check" and judge the health of relationships. As you observe each team members' mannerisms, behavior, spoken words, and how they practice their soft skills, identify who isn't the "team player". You can choose to feedback to those who are less participatory and offer help or advice in their interpersonal relationships amongst themselves. Managing their employee experience and creating compassionate work environments reduces poor relationship habits such as non-communication, resistance and deceptive thoughts.

Thereafter, make periodic team meetings a common practice in your department or organization. You are establishing communication habits with regular meet-ups. Honest dialogue held every week or two benefits the emotional health of workers and builds team spirit over the course of months and years.

Be an Example

Managers are people and business leaders. As the saying goes, "if you want others to change, then you got to change yourself as well". To change the mindset of people and imposing trust in the workplace starts with yourself.

When everyone in the organization knows that you are trusted by your employees, then everyone will trust each other more readily.

So, as a manager, how can you show trust to your employees?

Here are a few suggestions on simple practices you can start with:

  1. Your behavior - what kind of work ethic do you practice? How do you manage your time and others' time?
  2. You hold yourself accountable for your mistakes and failures; that is - you do not make excuses for yourself or try to shift blame to others. Rather, you admit that something could have been done better or more efficiently, and that's on you.
  3. Have an open door policy. Have a policy of creating open lines of communication with your direct reports who answer to you or report to you. Earning trust with those in-charge has a great influence on work behaviors downward the organisation.
  4. You allow employees to fail, but you help them learn from the experience and support them to succeed.
  5. You hold a healthy attitude towards other people - that they are not only here for your benefit, but also their own.

These suggestions make you come across to your office colleagues as a more credible leader. Doing by example also shows the intentional steps you are taking - a deliberate behaviour to tell your co-workers: "this needs to change."

Golden rules to trust building for everyone (7 rules).

Trust Building Basics

Regardless of whether you are an employee, employer, manager, supervisor or general working staff, trust is a key factor in relationships. Below are the 7 golden rules of trust-building applicable as strategies for employees and everyone else alike.

The 7 golden rules of trust-building

  1. Trust is built when people feel safe, respected, and understood
  2. Pay close attention to the little things-be available when asked for help; engage in thoughtful communication without judgement or criticism
  3. Make it a priority to communicate-people value being heard, talked to, and understood
  4. Build trust by having a person's back-for things that are bigger than you, stand behind them
  5. Show integrity by being respectful, honest, and reliable
  6. Trust is earned over time  Honesty builds trust, yet can be perceived as a weakness or vulnerability that motivates others to take advantage of us
  7. Be empathetic-focus on the situation and feelings of others (instead of just your own) rather than fixating on your needs.


Trust is hard to earn as it takes time to develop. Trust is a two-way street — both parties must show their trustworthiness, transparency, and honesty to each other in order for the relationship to thrive.

We have said that this starts with you, the individual. But you'll most likely face situations at work where you may be asked for your trust where you are compelled to admit your weaknesses and mistakes and later be judged by others. Stand strong. This will make you a stronger person. Ultimately it will help your company thrive. You'll have the support of your peers and colleagues when you trust. And most importantly, you'll be building strong candid relationships with your employees at work.

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