8 Keys to Building Trust at Work | PA Employee Benefits Group

Trust has always been important to organizational success. The pandemic seems to have put a spotlight on the value of trust and focused some significant attention on why trust matters.

Trust can’t be demanded. It must be earned over time and through consistent behavior and actions. Rebuilding trust is even more difficult, but it’s even more critical to your organization’s success because when trust is broken, productivity usually suffers.

One of the things we are learning about trust is its connection to the feeling of security that it creates in your employees. When leaders are dependable and follow through on promises made, staff members are more likely to feel comfortable and be more focused on doing the good work that you want from your teams.


We know that employees value transparency. They want to know what’s happening in your organization and/or department, and they want to know the good, bad, and ugly. So, start by being honest with your team. Of course, there will be things that you as a manager know about that will not be appropriate to share, and you will get more comfortable with these issues as you grow as a leader. For example, if layoffs are being considered, you would not want to discuss this with your employees until final decisions are made and you’ve been trained in what to say and how to say it.

Being a Good Listener

One of the best ways to build trust is listening carefully to your people. Take time to engage your employees in conversations about themselves and their families. Find out what is important to them as human beings and not just as employees of your organization. Spend time listening carefully to their questions and comments.

If your organization does employee surveys or focus groups to measure engagement, pay close attention to the results and act on them, when appropriate. If you are not doing employee surveys, consider starting now. Remember that when you ask your employees for their opinions and their suggestions, you must follow up. This doesn’t mean you must do what they suggest. It means you take as many of their suggestions as possible and for those you can’t implement, let them know the business reason why. That will build trust.

Consistent Behavior

Being consistent is a great trust building strategy. Your employees want to trust you so keep your word and, if there is ever a time when you can’t do what you promised, let your team know why and do it quickly. Sometimes there will be issues out of your control, so share why you couldn’t keep a commitment and move on. When it is at all possible, do what you said you would do, and trust will follow.


Admit when you’re wrong. It is hard to trust someone who isn’t secure enough to admit a mistake. This is a difficult lesson for many managers who don’t want to appear not to know everything. But no one knows everything, and there will be times when you make a mistake so learn how to “own it”.  A heartfelt, “I’m sorry,” goes a long way to building trust. Be willing to show vulnerability. When you share your imperfections, your employees will see a totally different side of you and trust will follow.

Skill Development

Make a real effort to participate in the skill development of your staff. Whenever possible, mentor your team members and share your experience with them as they work to develop their own skills. Encourage your staff members by continuing to develop your skills. Share learning experiences you have. Let them know podcasts you enjoy and what you learn from them. Encourage them to participate in webinars and to read books and articles that will enhance their skill development. When they know you are invested in their development, trust will follow.


Treat your staff members with respect at all times. Never badmouth one of your employees—or member of leadership—to another team member! This is a sure-fire way to destroy all you’ve done to build trust.

Work Shoulder-to-Shoulder

Never ask an employee to tackle a job you’re not willing to do yourself. In fact, a great way to build trust is to work alongside your employees on a project so that they see your commitment to them and to their work.


Always give credit where credit is due. Recognizing good work done by your team is a great way to not only build their skills and their confidence but their trust in you. And, it probably goes without saying—don’t ever take credit for something you didn’t do!

Building trust is not a one-time event. You will be working on this your entire management career, and it is well worth the effort. Trust is not built overnight. It builds gradually, so be patient.

By Cornelia Gamlem and Barbara Mitchell

Originally posted on HR Exchange Network

The authors of this article have written several books about leadership and management, including their latest, “The Decisive Manager,” and “The Manager’s Answer Book. Learn more on their website bigbookofhr.com.


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