March 19, 2018

101: Rebuilding trust

Work betrayals – such as mismanagement of layoffs, executive-level crime, or a leader taking credit for someone else's efforts – erode trust. Research by the Stowe, Vermont-based Reina Trust Building Institute, which specializes in restoring workplace trust, says "90 percent of employees report that they feel the effects of eroded trust on a daily basis." It's an emotion that affects turnover, productivity and more. Here are some ways to earn back trust in the workplace.

Be vulnerable. Be human. When your team hears you say things like, "I might be wrong," or "I don't know the answer," they see that you are not bulletproof, that you have vulnerabilities. "People who have a high need to defend what they did wrong instead of admitting their mistake are not trusted," says a blog article by Peter Barron Stark Cos., a management consulting company. Vulnerability builds transparency, which builds trust.

Seek ways to give support. "Share key information and insights to help employees feel involved and 'in the know,'" say workplace trust consultants Dennis and Michelle Reina at an article at It helps for team members to see how they can move ahead in a broader context, and how they can shift from finding blame to solving problems. Seek support for yourself, as well, from a mentor or coach.

Create a safe space. A leader should bring themselves into the problem of trust deterioration. "Trust requires the individual to feel as though they are operating in a safe environment and have the full support of their leader," said David DeWolf at "In addition to setting the tone … I demonstrated a willingness to be part of the solution … they began to gain confidence that I wasn't just beating them up, but rather committed to finding a solution. This made it safe for others to participate," he said.


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