7 Tips for Using Trust to Keep You and Your Employees Happy

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If you’re a manager or human resources specialist, you know a strong workplace requires trust. So much so that a SHRM study found trust between employees and senior management to be the number-two contributor to job satisfaction. Trust leads to internal motivation, a sense of pride and ownership, and happy people. If your workplace lacks trust, it’s never too late to get started.

One common fallacy is that building trust takes forever, but this type of thinking can lead to inaction. While you can’t snap your fingers and create trust, there are a few distinct steps that you can take to establish trust between you and your employees.

Project Warmth to Show You Care

Showing you care is one of the basic tenets for boosting trust, but do this in a way that is authentic to you, otherwise your efforts are likely to backfire. Suppose you ask an employee how her husband is, and she admits he’s sick. You’re not really listening, and respond, “Oh, that’s too bad. Great chat!” Keep that caveat in mind when thinking about the following steps.

  1. Avoid too much email and online communication. In person, ask employees how they’re doing and how their family members or pets are. Remember the names of the people you’re asking about. Listen to the responses, and ask follow-up questions.
  2. Connect through gestures, such as sending flowers to an employee whose parent just died, or by signing employee birthday cards and showing up to the parties.
  3. Use eye contact and other nonverbal cues to convey that employees have your total attention.
  4. Hold team-building events every month, with a different employee in charge of each monthly activity. This conveys your trust in employees’ planning and judgment skills, and fosters closeness as you get to know them better through the activities. This tactic works for all types of leaders.

If the first three tips don’t seem your thing, critical self-reflection will help you identify other approaches to using your authentic self to build trust.

Convey Competence

Being competent is the second tenet for increasing trust. After all, if you’re incompetent, why should anyone trust you?

  1. Use simple and effective language instead of hiding behind a lack of knowledge with jargon (although exceptions to this rule exist).
  2. Show vulnerability, particularly if you’re new. Rather than making you seem incompetent, this approach establishes competence by showing you trust employees to help you and that you know how to get information.
  3. Be transparent. Honesty and directness go a long way toward letting employees know that even when times are bad, they can count on you. For example, if a data breach occurs, tell employees what happened and how it affects them. Follow up with a plan for making sure it doesn’t happen again. Never belittle employees for being concerned about their safety.

Building trust between you and employees isn’t about memorizing the points above and checking them off a list. Instead, it comes down to treating each other like people.

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