Mark Miller

Mark Miller | VP of Marketing, Emergenetics International

“Trust has to be built on the conviction that this conductor, this coordinator, this executive creates a partnership — and then you have trust.” – Peter Drucker. A manager and an employee won’t always see eye to eye, but this doesn’t mean that the manager doesn’t have a responsibility to facilitate a workplace where trust can thrive.

The responsibility for managers isn’t touchy feeling, its driven by real, hard metrics and building the bottom line. This article in Talent Management speaks directly to clear business impact.

Think retention—as a manager, are you building an environment of trust that ensures you are retaining high-quality employees? According to a Gallup survey of 2 million workers at 700 companies, the length of an employee’s stay is largely determined by his or her relationships with their immediate boss.

Think employee motivation—what kinds of actions as a manager are prompting your employees to want to come to work and to operate at a high level, motivated by what’s best for the organization. According to DDI, 99 percent of employees think trust in the workplace is a vital need at work.

These are powerful stats, but it comes down to what this actually looks like in the real-world on a day-to-day level. A recent blog on creating an environment of trust by my colleague Chelsea Dillon explored how the issue of trust very clearly springs to the surface of our workplace. In her words, trust comes from accepting a person for who they are and appreciating their uniqueness rather than asking them (or expecting them) to be someone else.

So what have we done to create this kind of trust? It starts with a common language, because as Cynthia Olmstead of TrustWorks Group, Inc. states in the Talent Management article, “Trust is built upon perceptions or interpretations of actions or words. Often, managers might not realize something they said or did created a trust situation.”

The common language of trust comes from understanding people on a deep level. As a manager, exploring ways to put that language into action is what can build a workplace of trust. Here’s a few clear ways on how to do it.

Trust in the workplaceUnderstand what builds trust in the workplace. Clearly there are ethical actions that are foundational for building trust like telling the truth. An environment where lying (or even a form of lying like blame shifting) is prevalent will never work.However, looking more closely at what actually builds trust means understanding how employees think.

  • People who need data and logic (Analytical Thinkers) build trust by seeing proof and knowing that you will deliver factual, clear results
  • People who love structure and process (Structural Thinkers) build trust by seeing a promise executed and delivered. On time. With precision.
  • People who approach work via relationships (Social Thinkers) build trust by building and cultivating a collaborative and open way to work. Involve them to build trust.
  • People who gravitate to big-picture and visionary work (Conceptual Thinkers) build trust by knowing that what you’re asking them to do means something on a broader sense. You need to show how their ideas can be executed.

Understand the impact of behavior. The way we act as managers or employees bring clear dynamics to a team or situation. A person’s behavior attributes are a key part of their individual uniqueness. By understanding that employees are coming from a full behavioral spectrum, you can quickly see how trust is built up or broken down. As a manager, the way you approach and interact with each team member should be varied based on how they tend to behave and what you know about your own tendencies.

  • Be aware of the energy you use in both verbal and non-verbal communication. Keep in mind that a more quiet team member (Expressiveness Spectrum) will gain trust by seeing someone who pauses, listens and creates a space for their contribution. More gregarious employees tend to process information out loud, and a manager who allows them space to bring their thoughts whenever and wherever will build trust.
  • Be aware of the energy you use to maintain your position and drive ideas forward. For the peacekeepers in your office, (Assertiveness), a hard charging, competitive manager can be a bad fit and erode trust. Make a deliberate attempt to work towards consensus with these team members. On the other hand, those who are very driving are likely to gain trust when you challenge their thinking and encourage them to challenge yours.
  • Be aware of your willingness to switch gears and change direction. Employees who tend to be more focused (Flexibility Spectrum), could lose trust with a manager who welcomes change since you may appear wishy-washy and confusing. Be sure to communicate the rationale behind a change (Quick Tip: Incorporating their Thinking Preferences into the reasoning will likely increase your success). For team members who do love change, trust is built when positive change happens and when their given an opportunity to convey their ideas and the opportunity to see the change through.

If a trust bond is broken, rebuilding that trust takes far more focus, time, and effort than it does to initially build it. In some cases it may not be something that can be fully rebuilt. If you are a leader of people (whether it’s an official managerial title or not), keep in mind that everyone approaches situations differently. The more you know about yourself and others, the more likely you are to establish the bonds of trust in the workplace.