The role of trust in the workplace

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Print this page Genevieve Roberts, human resources consultant, MBA, PHR, partner, Titan Group LLC

Backstabbing, pettiness and office gossip — those things only happen on the hit television series, “The Office” right? Wrong. 

Unfortunately many of us who work in “real” offices are witnesses or victims of our colleagues who do not trust others and only try to protect themselves.  They might conceal their own weaknesses, jump to conclusions, hold grudges, or hesitate to ask for assistance.  Oftentimes they leave a mess behind them.  The truth is people need each other to be successful, and we need sincere interactions to truly build strong relationships with our co-workers.

I can relate.  At a former employer, I had a co-worker who did not trust me nor I her.  I was put in a leadership role, which previously had been held by this co-worker. I did not know it at the time, but later realized that she resented my transition into her previous role. 

While trying to build relationships with my new team, I relied on her to show me the ropes and provide insight into the job and other employees.  After several attempts to collaborate with her, I realized she had no interest in helping me. At first she withheld information and later gave me misinformation. 

I was frustrated and concerned that I was going to fail in this new role.  She then began to spread misinformation about me to my team and my boss.  Instead of focusing my energy on getting the team to accomplish its goals, I became sucked into this mistrustful relationship.  It did not turn out well for either of us, and we both left the organization.

Trust is primarily about the relationship we form with others.  Most business is conducted through a series of relationships we have with others.  You know immediately when trust does not exist in the workplace because your job becomes much more difficult.  You dread coming into the office, and you try to avoid those with whom you have a poor relationship.  The result is that your success and that of the company is at risk if the culture of distrust is not healed.

According to the authors of “Trust & Betrayal in the Workplace,” Dennis S. Reina and Michelle L. Reina, there are three types of trust:
1. Contractual trust – trust of character
2. Communication trust – trust of disclosure
3. Competence trust – trust of capability

Your capacity for trust is based on how strongly you are able to demonstrate behaviors in these three areas of trust. 

Contractual trust begins with managing expectations and establishing boundaries with those you work.  It includes delegating appropriately, encouraging others and keeping your agreements on a consistent basis.

Throughout all your relationships, communication serves as a big part of trust.  Ensure you share information, tell the honest truth, give and receive feedback, admit your mistakes, and maintain confidentiality.

Your skill level also helps you others trust you.  Make sure you acknowledge not only your own skill level but also other’s abilities.  Give others the chance to make decisions and seek their input.  By developing the skills of others you are also developing yourself.

When you can clearly and confidently demonstrate these three types of trust you will build strong relationships with others in the workplace that will allow you and your organization to be more successful.

Genevieve Roberts – Human Resources Consultant and Partner at the Titan Group LLC, you can reach her at 804-741-2390 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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