7 Ways Managers Can Build Trust in the Workplace

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How many people trust their managers? A recent study by Edelman found that one in three employees don’t trust their employer. Another study by EY found that number to be even lower, with only 46% having trust in their organization, and 49% in their boss/team. Trust is one of the most important things you need in the workplace. Without it you won’t have the environment you need for an effective feedback culture to grow. So how can you help close the trust gap between employees and managers?

1. Honesty is the best policy

It may be hard to share difficult news sometimes. We naturally have a tendency to believe that delivering bad news will impact other people’s opinion of ourselves. In fact, a recent article by Forbes addressed a reader’s question about how to deal with a boss who lies to avoid answering difficult questions from employees.

Being honest, even during tough times, is something the most trustworthy leaders learn how to do. Whether your company hasn’t met its goals and is unable to award bonuses this year, or you’ve decided to let go of a member of your team. Rather than putting off the difficult talk, employees will respect a manager who is able to openly explain the situation, take questions and give them the facts.

2. Admit mistakes

While being transparent about bad news is difficult, admitting when it’s you who’s made a mistake can be even more difficult. You may be surprised to find that employees will like you more for it. Admitting mistakes actually makes you more human and thereby more likeable to others. Psychologists call this the Pratfall effect. Being able to admit to and take responsibility for your mistakes is a major part of being a great leader.

3. Treat employees like people, not numbers

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers. If your job is based on meeting certain performance metrics, managers can often get in the habit of seeing their employees in terms of output achieved.

Managers don’t have to be their employee’s best friend, but they should be conscious of maintaining a healthy work environment. Managers who encourage extreme competition between peers and late hours are going to end up creating a toxic work culture in which employees don’t trust their manager or each other.

You don’t have to know all the details of your employees’ personal lives, but managers should have a good understanding of what their employees enjoy about their job most. If you’re able to pick up on what your employee’s need to do their best, they’ll go the extra mile for you.

4. Give credit to your employees

As the team leader, you will often receive recognition from your peers and upper management for your team’s efforts. Make sure you share appreciation and acknowledge your team members for their hard work. A recent study by Globoforce showed that employees who received recognition from their leaders recently were significantly more likely to trust them (82% vs 48%).

5. Put yourself on the line for your team

To gain trust, managers must be their team’s best advocate. While inwardly you may have constructive feedback for your team about the way they approached an assignment, outwardly you must be willing to praise, advocate and take responsibility for your team’s actions. When team members make a mistake it may seem common sense to distance one’s self. This may maintain your reputation, but it won’t win you your team’s trust. This is a difficult balance that each manager will have to maintain on their own, but having a team that is highly committed to you will help you achieve the results you want in the long run.

6. Teach your managers how to overcome bias

It’s not that managers are inherently biased, as people we have a natural tendency to make assumptions about others. This can result in managers unintentionally favoring some employees over others, known by psychologists as the ‘rater bias’. Unconscious bias contributes to a major loss in trust between managers and employees, especially when it affects performance reviews. Help managers learn how to identify and avoid bias in the workplace.

7. Make yourself vulnerable. Ask for feedback.

Trust isn’t the magic key to workplace bliss. Issues will always arise at work, but closing the trust gap means employees will be more likely to really take on and reflect on feedback from their managers and be more honest when they give upward feedback. As more and more employees are publicizing their complaints about their employer on Glassdoor, you want a workforce that feels free and comfortable to express concerns before they boil over onto the internet.

But to gain this type of trust, managers must first demonstrate they’re willing to open themselves up to criticism. If they truly start to put themselves out there and ask for employee feedback, their reports will recognize this and start to follow their example.

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Comments

  1. Good article Dave. All of your suggestions are important in creating trust. The two that I would add are creating a development plan for team members which include both personal and professional development goals. And, the manager serving as an accountability coach to the employees. When employees are challenged and coached to develop, this builds trust too.

    Mike Lyons |
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  2. Thanks Dave. I think that this article can be summed up by saying simple that the key to good leadership is humility and honesty! I like all you your points!

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    Premi Muruvan |
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