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Surprising Facts about Trust in Teams

Thursday July 30, 2020

Two team members showing their trust for one another by shaking hands

Most people would agree that trust in a team is important. Leaders seek to strengthen trust between their team members, hoping to improve performance and productivity.

Here are three surprising facts about team trust, and how to increase it in your team.

3 Facts About Team Trust

Researchers studying trust uncovered a set of surprising facts about it:

1. Oxytocin is “The Trust Molecule”

Claremont Graduate University’s Paul Zak, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main’s Michael Kosfeld, and Universität Konstanz’s Urs Fischbacher have conducted research that shows that the hormone oxytocin plays an essential role as a biological basis of trust.


Oxytocin increases trust in humans by affecting an individual’s willingness to accept social risks arising through interpersonal interactions. When someone’s level of oxytocin goes up, they respond more generously and caringly, even with complete strangers.

This applies to all aspects of human life including

  • Personal relationships
  • Business
  • Politics
  • Society at large

In business specifically, being able to respond with generosity and care is important, both for team members and clients alike.

2. Stress Inhibits Oxytocin and Reduces Trust

As Paul Zak explains in The Wall Street Journal, stress is a potential oxytocin inhibitor. Consequently, when people are stressed, they tend not to interact with each other effectively, which lowers trust.

Fortunately, you can take steps to combat stress in the workplace. According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), there are several ways you can reduce stress at work:

  • Help your team detach from work: Give your team opportunities to disconnect from work, allowing them to take a much needed break from the stressors of their workday.
  • Encourage micro-breaks: Taking short breaks around 10 minutes long throughout the day can help your team recover from stress, while not distracting them from work.
  • Create an environment that allows for recovery: A corporate culture that prioritizes wellbeing is much more conducive to stress recovery than one that rewards overwork.

A shared wellness activity can help your team get back on track and reduce their stress.

3. Group Activities Help Release Oxytocin and Promote Trust

In his experiments, Paul Zak also found out that many group activities such as singing or dancing cause the release of oxytocin and promote connection, caring and trust.

As social creatures, people have created activities that prompt the expression of oxytocin to foster connection to others. Surprisingly, even online social activities such as checking out a friend’s Facebook page can prompt an oxytocin surge.

Why is Trust Especially Important Today?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual workers reported elevated levels of stress and fatigue. There also tends to be less small talk among remote team members.

Research from Michael Morris of Stanford and Columbia and Janice Nadler, Terri Kurtzberg, and Leigh Thompson of Northwestern demonstrates that the disconnect that can occur in a virtual workplace can result in lower levels of trust.

As a result, teams can experience a decline in

  • Energy
  • Engagement
  • Productivity
  • Overall satisfaction

The good news is that even among virtual teams, building trust is definitely possible.

Building Trust With Teamraderie

Trust between team members is fundamental to team cohesion. Shared virtual experiences, such as those offered by Teamraderie, bring the team together, reduce stress, release oxytocin and promote trust.

Reduce stress and increase trust by leveraging our extensive list of over 60 experiences. These live, interactive workshops are excellent opportunities to help your team connect and build trust and camaraderie.

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