Trust matters in all relationships. Whether you are sharing deeply personal information with a best friend or delegating an important task to an employee, you are counting on that individual to do what you would expect them to do. Unfortunately, we live in a society where distrust and fractures appear to be growing. As a result, we may distrust and hold negative opinions about those who think differently from us. Social media and news feeds are extremely polarizing, and just the facts are hard to come by. In this polarized social climate, we are left wondering who we can trust. You might regularly ask yourself, “Who can I share my ideas with without fear of judgment or shame? Who will be a good listener versus who will invalidate my contributions? Who will accept and support me?” Whether you are asking yourself these questions in the context of personal or work life, you can quickly become overwhelmed with anxiety and doubt. When trust breaks down, it is difficult to work with others to achieve shared goals.
According to the SHRM article, “Why Trust Matters at Work,” without trust, employees are less likely to “go the extra mile.” Specifically, they are less likely to make decisions, share innovative ideas, and speak up when problems arise. Without trust, employees become less engaged and less invested in their organization. In fact, the article cites a survey of over 1,200 employees where 23 percent of respondents indicated that they would offer more ideas and solutions if they trusted their leaders, 21 percent indicated that they would be willing to work longer days if they trusted their leaders, and 28 percent indicated that they would stay with the organization longer if transparency was practiced at all levels. Clearly, establishing trust paves the way for a thriving workplace, especially in our current social climate. The following details best practices for establishing trustworthy relationships with all members of your organization, regardless of differences.
Discuss and Appreciate All Diversity
In the Diversity Journal article, “Building Trust Across Diversity,” Dr. Charlita Shelton states, “For individuals in an organization to embrace the concept of diversity, a level of trust needs to be established. Trust is formed when an organization shows commitment to diversity by alleviating employees’ fear of being judged or ridiculed because of cultural or personal differences.” She emphasizes the fact that diversity doesn’t only apply to minorities, stating, “To build trust across diversity lines, an understanding of what diversity truly is becomes imperative. All stakeholders must believe that they are diverse in their own way and contribute to an organization’s ‘tapestry’ of people who bring a level of richness to the workplace.”
Everyone holds multiple identities that contribute to an organization’s diversity. These extend beyond visible differences such as race, age, and gender to include personality, educational background, religion, seniority, geographic location, political affiliation, and more. To Shelton, diversity training should help employees and employers understand and appreciate one another for who they are. She closes by stating, “Before trust can be established, one must feel safe within their environment to be who they are. And, they must feel included and valued.” This means everyone. When everyone is recognized and valued in diversity discussions, people let go of their defensiveness, knocking down a major barrier to trust.
Trust Those You Want to Trust You
The Business Insider article, “5 Ways to Make People Trust You,” shares this simply stated yet difficult piece of advice: “When you want others to trust you, trust them first.” Putting your trust in others, especially when you perceive them as different, is daunting. Using terms such as “being vulnerable” or “letting your guard down” makes doing so seem even scarier than it needs to be. Thankfully, when it comes to workplace relationships, nobody expects you to get too personal. In fact, the article states, “The deepest kind of trust evolves over time, so allow this process to happen incrementally.”
Begin by sharing information about your life outside of work. Maybe you have a pet that you absolutely adore or maybe you dedicate hours each week to a certain hobby or sport. Allowing others to know more about you than what is absolutely necessary for work shows that you feel comfortable with them. When people sense that you trust them, they will be more likely to trust you.
Another great piece of advice from the Business Insider article is to be a positive person. You want others to see you as someone who makes situations better. When things go wrong, it is important to help solve the problem. Instead of being negative and hyper-critical, offer helpful suggestions and focus on moving forward. Along the same lines, showing appreciation and recognizing others’ strengths helps build trust. In the Forbes article, “15 Ways to Build a Two-Way Relationship of Trust with Employees,” Forbes Coaches Councilmember Rosie Guagliardo states, “Accepting someone for who they are builds trust. So, acknowledging someone’s strengths and what makes them feel happy – what provides pleasure and meaning – helps them feel valued.”
When employees and colleagues feel that you have an accurate and positive perception of them, they are more likely to see you as someone they can trust. In a world where people are attacked for their differences, reaching out to others with something positive to say goes a long way.
Be Honest, Consistent, and Sincere
These three popular pieces of advice go together. There is a big difference between adjusting your attitudes and behaviors to be more trustworthy and adjusting your attitudes and behaviors to appear more trustworthy. You should never fake your personality and beliefs to gain trust and approval from others. Instead, you must earn other’s trust by aligning your actions with your words, expressing genuine interest and positive regard for others, and acting with authenticity.
Trust is fundamental to a thriving workplace where team members feel empowered to express their ideas, suggestions, and concerns. Without trust, problems are ignored and opportunities for improvement are missed. In a social climate characterized by distrust for those who are different, it is imperative that team members feel valued and included for who they are. It is important to remember that everyone contributes to the diversity of the workforce and that everyone belongs in discussions about diversity. Trustworthy relationships will form among diverse team members when everyone feels included and valued. With hard work and dedication, your workplace can be defined by a culture of trust and respect for all.