4 Steps to Build Trust in the Workplace

trust in workplace

trust in workplace

The modern workplace, increasingly, has become a place where professional and personal aspirations have converged. Not in the sense of blurring the lines between work and personal time (though that remains a concern), but more along the lines of employees looking at work as a means of personal fulfillment, and the realization of one’s true potential. Conversely, organizations thrive when employees bring their whole engaged and thoughtful self to work. In such an environment, trust that goes both ways, between employee and the organization, becomes critical to long term success of both parties.

Any analysis of ways to build trust should begin by first identifying the aspects that constitute trust in the modern workplace, and examining the factors that positively impact those. At a broad level, these are the parameters an organization must pay attention to:

  • Fairness and equality. That this bears repeating in the year 2019 says a lot about how far organizations still have to go, but this is the absolute foundation without which the following points are moot. A workplace free of bias, where employees irrespective of gender, ethnicity, religious or sexual orientation can thrive and be treated as equals, is a must. This starts first by setting the requisite processes and training in place across the management hierarchy, but in practice, it is codified through the adoption of a regular, transparent feedback process between the organization and employees at every level of the hierarchy, without fear of retribution.
  • Communication. Engaged employees view their role in the organization as not just a valuable cog in the wheel, with only a myopic view of tasks and rewards. They want to, and might even need to know and trust the broader strategic vision of the organization and place their objectives within that context. That drives a sense of identification of personal aspirations with the organization’s goals and can lead to positive outcomes for both parties. The key to this is making communication between managers and employees not only an episodic once or twice a year event, but at a more regular cadence, with a focus on clarifying why each individual objective or key result is important and has an impact on the organization’s goals, and calibrating this keeping in mind the employees long term goals.
  • Objectivity, driven by data. Trust in the performance review and evaluation process is critical to creating an environment where employees, across all levels, truly believe that performance is the only relevant criteria. It solely determines rewards, compensation, promotions, etc., and not interpersonal relationships, office politics or any of a plethora of other subjective factors. This can only be achieved through the institution of a performance review process that is based on measurable metrics, regular tracking of those, and feedback that is objective and primarily based on data.
  • Honesty and empathy, even when it is difficult. As a corollary to the above point around communication, trust is fostered only when communication is anchored around honesty and empathy. This is easier to do around good news, targets met, bonuses awarded, etc., but the real test of this is when times are more challenging – missed targets, lower bonus payouts, and in rare unfortunate instances, layoffs. Difficult times, in work as in life, are a given. How enterprises communicate the same, makes the difference between the average and the good ones. For example, when a company misses its annual revenue projections leading to missed bonus payments, what is important for employees to know is why it happened, what the organization learned, and what it is doing to rectify the situation.

Trust, finally, is the cornerstone of every healthy human relationship, and it is no surprise that it is equally important in the relationships we build at work. It is earned, not commanded, and putting in place processes that engender trust into every human interaction in the workplace is the best way to ensure that.

About the author

Samawat Shakil, is Content Manager at GroSum, an all-around employee performance and compensation management software 

for organizations of all sizes that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, 360 degree feedback , and meaningful reviews.

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