How to Build Trust in the Workplace


Trust. It’s the most important trait of top performing teams. With trust, your team will work together as a cohesive unit. Without trust, your team will tend to work as a collection of individuals who don’t work together particularly well. But how do you actively build trust within your team and company?

Why is trust so important?

Did you know a single draft horse can pull a load up to 8,000 pounds? That’s pretty impressive until you consider that two horses, trained to work in tandem, can actually pull 32,000 pounds! Each horse doubles its output thanks to teamwork and collaboration. In the same way, trust helps your team work together to be more than the sum of their parts.

In a recent post, we explored what Patrick Lencioni (author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team) had to say about ‘trust’ which he defines as vulnerability-based trust.

This kind of trust is seen in teams where people feel comfortable saying things like “I made a mistake” or “I don’t know” or “I need help”. When people open up and make themselves vulnerable, says Lencioni, it changes the dynamics of a team.

Recent research suggests something very similar. According to Google, the most important indicator of top performing teams is feeling “psychologically safe”. And for people “to be fully present at work, to feel ‘‘psychologically safe,’’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy.”

Creating a psychologically safe culture is all about building trust, so how do you build trust within your team?


How to build trust in your team

As a leader, the best way to build trust in your team is to start by being vulnerable and transparent yourself. It’s important that you take the lead and make it ok for others to be open too, because if you’re not willing to say “I don’t know” or to admit mistakes then no one else will be either.

Think about this in context of feedback. There’s a real temptation as a manager to want to give feedback to people who work under us, but not be willing to seek out, listen to and accept their feedback on us. If you want to take the lead and be vulnerable, a great place to start is by asking for feedback.

Where a lot of businesses go wrong is they ask for anonymous feedback. As we’ve written about before, anonymous feedback can undermine your attempts to build trust because asking for anonymous feedback is as good as saying “it’s not safe to give feedback openly, so we’ve made it anonymous”.

Where you can, feedback should be open and identifiable (i.e. people need to but their name to it). That doesn’t mean feedback can’t be private (one to one) which would be more appropriate if you’re giving or getting personal feedback. But putting your name to your feedback is important because the key to building trust is to make speaking openly and directly a safe and normal thing to do.

We have some anonymity within Jobvibe because we want to make people who aren’t used to giving open feedback feel safe before opening up to make specific comments to their team. But when they do comment, those comments are always open; we want to make speaking your mind safe and normal.

Regular direct and open conversations with the whole team quickly gets people used to speaking openly. Even when it comes to the tough stuff. But only if people can see that feedback is respected, listened to and acted on if required.


Building trust in your team using Jobvibe

Jobvibe gets you started on the path to building trust by drawing out what’s going well and what could be better. As a Jobvibe user (and particularly as a manager) your part to play in this is to make sure comments are acknowledged, and actioned if required.

If no one is listening, then people will stop sharing. But if comments are respected, listened to and acted on, this will create the building blocks of trust within your team.

Justin Babet

Justin is the Co-Founder and CEO of Jobvibe. ​We help teams work better together. Jobvibe is a simple, smart mobile platform to gather real-time feedback from your team, openly discuss results and improve the way you work together.