It is herculean, stressful and emotionally nerve-wracking to try and lead or thrive in a workplace environment that is devoid of trustful relationships. It breeds so much toxicity that it is difficult to be sustainably productive. You are most often than not, second-guessing one another in engagements, whether they are one-on-one or team related.
By the way, I define a trustful relationship as one in which the parties involved act in the best interest of one another. There is mutual belief that they can ride on each others’ back to success. I have personally experienced both trusting working relationships and lack of it. Trust me, the former is not good for your health whether you are the one who doesn’t trust someone you work with or vice versa.
Here are some tips that I have practiced over the last few years that have helped me along the journey. They are simple but yet daunting to consistently do. You just have to develop the habit consciously over time until it becomes more or less, second nature.
Give trust in advance
Fundamentally, there is an arguable dichotomy about trust, which is whether it should be earned or given. There is a school of thought that believes that trust should be earned, which means you need to start from a point where you are not trusted and over time, you prove yourself trustworthy.
On the other hand, another school of thought believes that one should always assume good intentions and give trust in advance. It is believed that this approach challenges people to become better versions of themselves because they feel trusted even though they did nothing to earn it.
I practice the latter, because it brings out the best in people and you see them really challenge themselves not to let you down.
Show genuine interest in others
Simply put, if your engagement/focus with colleagues at work is tilted disproportionately towards task execution, as against the people themselves, you may struggle with building trustful relationships.
Of course, we have tasks to carry out in the workplace which we should focus on, and not molly-cuddle one another. Having said that, we should not forget that the ones carrying out those tasks are not machines. We all are people who are going through life with it’s attendant challenges – emotional beings whose performance is usually dependent on their states of mind.
Check-in with colleagues about life outside of work. Ask about loved ones. Generally, endeavor to know more and more things about one another that are not apparent in the place of work. You do this not because you want to be the answer to all their challenges, but just to show that you are human too, and you care.
For further reading on trust, Click here.
Trust building requires vulnerability
Sometimes you have a feeling like some colleagues or leaders within the organization are just so good that they are infallible. Of course there’s no one that is perfect, hence if you are perceived as such you will have a hard time building trusting relationships.
People will find it difficult to be their real selves around you because they don’t feel safe. They are busy trying to impress you about how “good” they are.
Again, let people see that you are human. Share not only your successes, but your failures and learnings. Get comfortable with saying “I don’t know”, “I need help”, “I felt discouraged”, “I messed things up” etc.
Listen more than you speak
Nature has given us two ears and one mouth. Logically, one would think that we should naturally listen more than we talk but more often than not, the reverse is the case. We listen to respond most of the time. We are listening and thinking on the spot how to respond.
Again, in my experience, this is particularly a problem where people do not feel safe and they have a strong need to prove themselves to colleagues who they perceive do not trust them.
Listen to understand the other person before you respond. Listen not just with your ears but with your body language showing it. Maintain eye contact. Nod to show you are following. Ask clarifying questions. Do this genuinely, as people can easily see when you are faking it.
Ask for, and give feedback
Feedback, for me, is a gift and a tool for self and people’s development. Asking for feedback from colleagues is an indication of your desire to grow, in recognition that your capabilities are not fixed.
On the other hand, giving others feedback also shows you are genuinely interested in their growth and success. This builds trustful working relationships over time. For more on feedback and how to leverage it, check out my previous blogpost on 5 Effective Ways to Act on Feedbacks.
Please share your thoughts and experiences below on building trust in the workplace – what do you agree or have a different perspective about?