Trust in the Workplace—Build It and Guard It


3780_394912580592380_115401052_nI have been embroiled in a family crisis for the last few months and it has not been a lot of fun. However, I’ve learned or rather re-learned one or two valuable lessons– which is a good thing. When you have to suffer through a difficult time, you may as well get something out of it besides insomnia!

Trust is the bedrock of all successful relationships

That is what is prompting the subject of this post—trust. Trust is the bedrock of all successful relationships. If the trust goes away, it takes something to re-build it and in the meantime, the relationship is rocky at best. And it makes no difference whether the relationship is in your personal life or at work. The principles of building trust in a relationship are the same. And trust in the workplace is essential to getting your job done more successfully and easily. Most of the time when breakdowns happen at work it’s because trust has been broken,on some level. Think of any problem that you are now having at work and I’ll bet that there is a relationship breakdown somewhere in the chain that could be fixed with a good dose of trust-building.

If you’re intentional you can build trust

The good news about building trust with another person is that if you know how and are intentional about it, you can be successful. However, once trust is broken you have to work that much harder to gain it back but nevertheless it can be done.

Trust has four distinct components

You’re probably wondering how you can go about building trust with another person. Well, first of all, I’d like to say that you don’t have to like somebody to build trust with them, nor they you. You just have to show up consistently in four areas.

Those four areas are

· Competence

· Reliability

· Sincerity

· Involvement

Let’s look at them one by one. I’m going to discuss trust from the other person’s point of view but of course you are entitled to assess your own feelings about that person’s trustworthiness as well.

Can you do the work?

First, there’s competence. Does the other person judge that I CAN do the work?

This is simple—especially in the work environment. Oftentimes trust is lacking because someone does not believe you have the skill to perform certain tasks. So they don’t trust that you have the ability to deliver on your promises to them. If you determine that they are,in fact, right– you don’t have competence in the particular arena then it’s up to you to gain that competence by getting training, asking for assistance or whatever other means you have available to gain competence. If you believe you do have the competence to engender their trust then it’s up to you to figure out how to demonstrate that competence to the satisfaction of the other person. Start with a conversation—one of the most often ignored strategies in the business world. Share what you think and find out what they see.

Will you do the work?

Next there is reliability. Does the other person judge that I will do the work? If you constantly miss deadlines or deliver something different than what you have promised, it may be difficult to have the other person see you as reliable.

Do you believe what you are promising?

And the there is sincerity: is the other person convinced that I believe what I am promising? Sincerity is a quality that’s often hard to define but most of us know it when we see it, or when we don’t. How often have you had someone say, “We’ll have to get together,” only to not follow through making it happen. Sincerity is when words and actions match. So if,for example, you say you are a team player but are constantly pushing your own secret agenda, your colleagues may have a hard time accepting you as sincere.

Your test for sincerity: “I believe what I’m saying and intend to stand by it.”

Will you take care of what’s important to the other person?

Last but not least is involvement. Does the other person assess that what’s important to him (or her) is important to me?

My past students have nicknamed this the “I’ve got your back” element. Whether the two of you are together or not, will you take care of the other’s concern as if it were your own, even in place of your own?

The good thing about having four separate elements defined in trust is that it gives you a clue about where you can go to work in building or re-building it. However you have to spend some time listening ,observing and speaking to that person to figure out where you need to start. But it sure beats just trying to make them trust you without a clue as to how to do it.

Even broken trust can be re-built with some effort

And if you find yourself in the position of having to re-build broken trust—go in peace, my friend. No, I’m kidding. There is hope. You will have to be very diligent in working on the elements of trust. That said, involvement is the best place to start. If you can demonstrate consistently that you will take care of what ‘s important to the other person, that will go a long way to easing their doubts about you.

I could go on at great length about this topic but this is a blog post, not a dissertation. There’s a whole chapter on the subject in my book, Relationships That Work, Work That Matters, available on Amazon.

If you’d like to do some additional reading on making work relationships better, try this one called The Most Important Relationship in Your Life

In need of some coaching on being more successful at your job? Go to my web site and check out the ‘Work With Me’ tab.

If you see something you like then set up a coaching information session with me or email me at

Now go get some fresh air before winter sets in…

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