How to Earn Trust in the Workplace
Trust is such an elusive concept. It’s not something you can point to and say, “That’s what it looks like.” Nevertheless, if you’re starting a new position, taking over a team (or a company), transferring to a new department, or simply doing your job every day, you can accomplish more and accomplish it faster if people trust you.
Of course, trust is not automatically conferred just because you would like to be trusted. It’s something you have to earn. But doing so can be tricky because several factors that aren’t under your control influence how quickly you can gain trust.
One factor that’s outside your control is how trusting the other party is. Some people enter relationships with trust as a given, and they maintain that trust until circumstances demonstrate they shouldn’t. And even then, they sometimes remain trusting. Other people enter relationships with a tendency to distrust until circumstances or the passage of time convince them otherwise.
Secondly, trust has boundaries, and our trust boundaries are likely to differ from each other. So, for example, you might trust me to take you skiing, but not to find the bugs in your code. I might trust you to meet the deadline you agreed to, but not to know which wild mushrooms are safe to eat.
A third factor outside your control is the context. If you work in an organization known for letting people down, you can suffer distrust by association. You can still earn trust through your own actions and behavior, but it’s likely to take a lot longer than if you were in a trusted organization.
Still, the one factor you can control is yourself. It’s not any one thing that earns the trust of others, but rather the way you treat people every day. This pattern of behavior entails such things as communicating coherently, being friendly, being open to other people’s views, accepting responsibility for your mistakes, treating others with respect, and appreciating people’s efforts.
This pattern of behavior also includes meeting your commitments (or letting others know in advance if you find you can’t) and listening with the intent to really hear. Most importantly, it includes exhibiting honesty, integrity, kindness, and empathy. Fortunately, we can do all these things without needing anyone’s approval or support.
And then you have to keep at it, because once lost, trust is much harder to regain. But if people trust you, you can inspire them to consider your ideas and follow your lead. Trust me on this!