How to Build Trust in the Workplace

Group of four employees in a casual meeting

When considering what makes a good team, high on the list for most people would probably be trust, with it being a driving factor behind job satisfaction and productivity.

Some sources claim that employees are 50% less likely to look for a new job if trust is high in the workplace. But trust can be difficult to pinpoint and even harder to gain in the wrong environment. In this blog, we’ll explain exactly what trust looks like in the workplace, the importance of it and how you can build it by fostering an environment that allows it to flourish.

What does trust in the workplace look like?

Trust in the workplace can come in different forms, whether that be the ability to confide in another colleague about a personal issue or having faith that a task will be completed without follow-ups. Typically trust at work can be categorised into two main types, which can be helpful to recognise so you can build on them with your peers and colleagues.

Different types of trust

Emotional trust

Emotional trust is having trust in a colleague to respect your emotional boundaries, this could include not involving you in gossip, ensuring that conversations are kept confidential, and offering emotional support during challenging periods in the workplace.

Building emotional trust is an ongoing, gradual process that can’t be rushed. Although one single act cannot build emotional trust, a single act can destroy it. With that in mind, it’s important to remember that one negative action can destroy many months or years of positive actions.


Female employee consoling coworker in the office


Practical trust

Practical trust, on the other hand, can be characterised by being able to rely on someone to complete tasks. This could be as simple as remembering a meeting or taking on additional tasks to help a colleague.

As a rule, practical trust is easier to build and more difficult to do irreparable damage to. In this respect, practical trust is more accurately compared to a brick wall, where a negative act may only knock a few bricks out.

How trust can differ based on role

Whether you are a new starter in a junior role, or you’re part of the senior management team, trust can look a little different and could mean different things. Here’s how trust can often manifest itself at various seniority levels through the business.

Trust for junior team members

Junior members of staff can often feel unheard and undervalued in a workplace, so building trust for them should focus on making sure that their views are listened to and acted upon.

As a senior member of staff, you should listen and act appropriately when a junior member of staff raises concerns. Determine whether the issue requires escalation to a more senior member of staff or whether the issue can be dealt with yourself. The most important part is to ensure that you deal with the issue and act on any promises you offer.

Trust for senior team members

Despite having more responsibility and sway within a business, senior members of staff also lean heavily on the trust of their colleagues to do their jobs effectively.

A senior member of staff relies on junior members of staff to carry out tasks on time, to remember important meetings and prepare for them and to have respect for punctuality in the office.

The importance of trust in the workplace

Trust is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of any workplace, on an emotional or practical level. A workplace without trust quickly becomes toxic and unproductive and may even push people to look for pastures new.


Focused group of employees within a meeting


A breakdown in practical trust can cause productivity issues in your team, for example, if a senior member of the team has little trust in a junior member of the team to carry out a task effectively, they may opt to do it themselves meaning they are taken away from their duties as a senior member of staff that are difficult for someone else to pick up on.

How to build trust in the workplace

When building trust, actions speak louder than words. Emotional trust can be built by responding with empathy when a colleague confides in you, letting them know that they can come to you without fear that it will become workplace gossip.

Practical trust can be built by delivering on targets that you’ve agreed to, and communicating effectively if you’re likely to miss those targets. Being dependable isn’t just about completing everything without a second thought, it’s also about being able to effectively manage your time in order to manage other people’s expectations.

Outside of this, team-building exercises can build trust by demonstrating to each other that even though they are work colleagues, they are human beings outside of work deepening trust and friendships that are started at work.

When considering how you can build trust in the workplace, think of it as a marathon and not a sprint. Although trust can be built effectively in a relatively short period, it is strengthened and deepened over time. Remember that emotional trust and practical trust offer different levels of resilience, with emotional trust being easy to break and hard to build.

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