How To Build Trust in the Workplace

If you want to build trust, look at what great teams do and how they succeed, and you see that it all boils down to how an ordinary group of individuals works together in an extraordinary manner.

How do they do it? Because of who they are (character), what they can do (competence), and the shared purpose that unites them—their why. Personal drive, enthusiasm, and a great attitude are useless without the capacity for action.


However, competence is a two-sided coin. There’s the ability to theorize and learn new information on one side, and the power to apply that knowledge and get shit done on the other. The purpose of theory, for instance, is to influence and apply to practice because, without feedback, theory just loses validity.


A goal without a plan is just a dream, feedback without personal reflection or input is criticism, and a thought without intention is just mindless.


Now, in order to define what extraordinary is, it may be valuable to first examine what ordinary looks like:

  • No meeting agendas
  • Non-existent or poorly articulated roles, responsibilities, and expectations
  • Poor communication between people, departments
  • No alignment and therefore no accountability
  • Different missions across different departments (the sales division has a different goal than the marketing department)
  • Lack of trust between people and departments
  • Leaders not leading. That is, leaders who are risk averse, don’t understand his or her team’s capabilities, avoid accountability, or make ego-centric decisions
  • People serve themselves, rather serve others
  • Little focus on personal development or leadership succession
  • No purpose and therefore little energy to work
    Unwillingness to adapt, too rigid

Is this normal for your workplace? Why? How much trust would you, the head of your sales or HR division, for instance, have in someone in marketing to make a decision for you? Probably zero because you each have different purposes, different knowledge bases, and different conceptions of what right looks like. Moreover, a lack of trust exists because there are no forums to build trust in.

Building trust is simple, but not easy. 

Build Trust in the Workplace

The first step to building trust in a corporate environment is to make the time to build trust, and that only comes when business is a priority for you (and by "business" I'm referring to relationships because that's how business gets done--through people).

You can do so in the following two ways:


Show face.

People are social creatures and they like putting faces with names. Instead of dialing that person’s desk or office number, take the time to walk by and present yourself. Interaction also has proven to increase oxytocin levels in the brain, otherwise known as the “feel good drug.”

Prioritize your comms.

Communicating these days is simpler and faster than ever before. There is no reason for being disconnected in today's age of increased technology. None.

However, the ease of such technological means also lends itself to laziness for the sheer fact that “I don’t have to get up and walk over to so and so’s desk–I can just call him/her from right here.” 

Yes, you’re right on multiple fronts. You don’t have to walk over, but you also don’t have to use the phone. Try skype, webex, facetime or google hangout for the same reasons that showing more face builds trust. Yes, calling and email is easier but they're also the least effective means of both delivering and interpreting a message. How many emails or phone texts have you seen that were completely taken out of whack for the sheer fact that they didn't convey context or body language? Exactly.

Go for a walk.

No seriously, take your meetings outside and walk. The new stimulus invoked in the participants will be associated with you–-the person who initiated the walk–-and therefore serve as an emotional anchor for feeling productive (or the myriad other positive feelings associated with exercise). Plus, the rise in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) promotes healthy brain cell connection as well as dopamine and serotonin–-two neurotransmitters that have been proven to ward off depression (source).

These are just a couple of ways to build trust.

How do you build trust in your workplace? Share in the comments below.

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