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Earning Your Team’s Trust: How to Build Trust in the Workplace

Thursday May 30, 2024

Group of employees having a discussion, smiling and sitting in a circle with laptops on laps.

Building trust in the workplace is critical.

Many workplace problems are rooted in distrust. This creates tension, reduced productivity, and in many cases, dysfunction.

Workplaces grounded in trust promote clear, honest communication. They consist of teams that work cohesively and rely on each other without question.

Trusting work environments allow employees to feel secure in raising new ideas and creating confident new leaders. Ultimately, organizations built on a foundation of trust are destined for success.

Unfortunately, cultivating a trusting work environment is easier said than done. Especially with the prevalence of working from home, building trust requires a significant amount of intentionality.

Here’s an overview of how leaders can build trust at work.

How Trust Develops in the Workplace

Genuine trust is earned, not awarded. Building trust takes time and can be fostered through working together, team-building, and aligning to core values.

Take your company values, for example. These may be displayed proudly on your marketing collateral or even featured in your office space.

However, these values must be practiced and demonstrated by leadership to be impactful.


According to Harvard Business School Professor Frances Frei in an article written for Harvard Business Review, trust has three pillars:

  • Logic
  • Empathy
  • Authenticity

When any of these pillars “wobbles,” trust erodes.

1. Logic

Employees are more likely to trust your decisions when they’re grounded in logic.

Even if you’re a logical person, employees may perceive your decisions as illogical if they’re not communicated effectively.

Using research and data to support your choices can help demonstrate that your decisions aren’t based on gut feelings or personal biases.

This builds credibility and strengthens the trust your team has in your leadership.

Listening and learning from others also goes a long way in bolstering trust, since people are more likely to trust your judgment if you’re open to alternative perspectives.

2. Empathy

If employees don’t feel like you care about them personally, they’re unlikely to trust you to make decisions in their best interest.
In remote work environments, even empathetic leaders may “wobble” on this pillar, since empathy is difficult to convey virtually.

The following traits can cause employees to lose trust in your empathy:

  • Getting impatient
  • Interrupting conversations
  • Getting distracted during conversations
  • Failing to actively listen
  • Negative body language

If you find yourself engaging in any of these behaviors during meetings, prioritizing empathy might be the best way to build trust in the workplace.

3. Authenticity

If employees feel that you’re not being your true self around them, you’re likely dealing with an authenticity wobble.

When you aren’t authentic with your team, they’re unlikely to be authentic around you. This often requires admitting mistakes and expressing a sincere desire to do better.

For example, observing how an organization navigates challenges—such as layoffs, mergers, acquisitions, or even scandals—can solidify how much an employee trusts that organization moving forward.

If leadership chooses to ignore, skirt, or obscure the truth, employees will lose trust in what leadership shares moving forward.

If leaders own the issue, communicate honestly and openly, and share plans for how they’ll move forward, employees are far more likely to trust their authenticity.

4 Ways to Build Team Trust

1. Build Connection

If you’re unsure where to start building trust, connecting with your team on a personal level is a great place to begin.

Demonstrate authenticity by sharing a little bit about yourself. Discuss your family, hobbies, or even your latest pet, and encourage your team to do the same. This creates a sense of shared humanity and allows your team to connect with you on a deeper level.

If an employee is getting married or going through a loss, take the time to acknowledge the event and offer your support. This shows that you’re not just a boss but someone who cares about their well-being.

By sharing a bit of yourself, you encourage your team to do the same, fostering genuine connections and building a stronger foundation of trust.

2. Promote Transparency and Accountability

Promoting honesty and transparency at every organizational level is vital to building trust.

This can be as simple as owning up to a mistake or sharing how you wish you’d done something differently.

Be vulnerable and authentic—show your teams that you understand that you’re not perfect and that you recognize failures as an opportunity for growth.

This will ensure your team will not only be comfortable owning up to mistakes, but also ensuring they know that making mistakes is a natural part of the process. Failure is a learning opportunity, and it’s expected now and again.

Transparency is even more important in the face of extreme adversity. Focus on accountability and communication during challenging times, and your employees will be more willing to accept the results.

3. Encourage Your Team

Providing your team with support and encouragement will not only be appreciated but it will also be reciprocated.

You’ll earn the trust of your staff when you focus on recognizing their contributions. In turn, staff will become comfortable with celebrating the success of others, and supporting their leadership as well.

Supporting your team during the successes and the challenges will ensure they know that you have their backs as a leader, and they’ll be equally willing to do the same for you.

4. Give Credit Where Credit is Due

A quick way to erode trust within your team is to assume credit for others’ work or allow contributions to be inappropriately attributed. It demonstrates a significant lack of empathy.

If you’re given praise for an idea that isn’t yours, actively ensure your team member is given the credit.

This will reflect positively on you as a leader of a team producing good ideas, and ensure your teams understand that you want their contributions recognized. Doing the opposite will not only erode trust but prevent team members from sharing ideas out of fear of that idea being misappropriated.

Trust can be eroded far more quickly than it will be earned. Start from a position of strength by humanizing yourself as a leader. Be vulnerable, be honest, and be accountable. Your teams and your work will benefit.

Build Trust With Teamraderie

According to Frances Frei in the Teamraderie Leadership Lab event, How To Build Trust, the idea that trust takes a long time to build and that once it’s lost it’s gone forever is a myth.

“Rebuilding trust can be just as powerful, even after you’ve lost it,” says Frei.

If you’re struggling with building trust, or need to rebuild it, check out Teamraderie’s Team Trust Journey, created in partnership with Frances Frei, as well as author and speaker Anne Morris.

In this journey, your team will learn how to improve team trust, appreciate each others’ contributions, and connect with each other.

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