How to Build Trust With the People at Work


How can you build more trust with people? Trust is the critical tenet to great working relationships. The more people trust you, the more freedom you gain, and the more people rely on you.

The inverse applies when people don't trust you. When your peers don't believe you, they refuse to put themselves out for you. They will not want to share ideas with you. They will not want to help you succeed in your role. The lack of trust becomes detrimental to the success of the team.

When a workplace functions on the foundation of trust, it becomes more open, collaborative, honest, and empathetic. These factors all lead to higher output and a happier workplace.

The two main types of trust in the workplace are practical and emotional:

Practical trust is earned by being reliable, showing up on time, and executing on your promises. Practical trust is a fundamental trust in staying employed. Emotional trust is a trust that you will treat people fairly, and that you are on their side. People are comfortable telling you about their lives, feelings, and ideas.

In this guide, I will break down the science behind gaining trust. I will show you how to execute actionable tips to building trust at work.

4 Basic Pillars of Trust

1. Credibility

Credibility is the quality of being trusted and believed in. When you have credibility at work, people instantly trust the words you say without question. You have proven your words to be trustworthy within the workplace.

2. Reliability

Reliability is the quality of being trustworthy and performing consistently well. When you are reliable at work, people will count on you to deliver on tasks.

3. Intimacy

Intimacy is the feeling of close familiarity or friendship. It allows the team to feel close to you. People can trust you emotionally and share ideas and personal details with you.

4. Self-Orientation

Self-orientation is where your attention is focused. Are you focused on yourself? Or are you focused on others? The more you are self-oriented, the more you are focused on yourself. It's important to decrease self-orientation to succeed in a team.

How to Lose Trust at Work

Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

Albert Einstein

It's pretty easy to lose trust at work. These are some common ways to get people to stop trusting you:

  • Promising too much and never delivering.
  • Stealing credit for other people's work.
  • Gossiping about others.
  • Share intimate details about others without their permission.
  • Not doing the tasks you were assigned.
  • Micro-manage people.

When you lose trust, you will notice the behavior of your coworkers changes around you. You will get scolded for not hitting deadlines. People will double-check the work you submit. They will not invite you to lunch and private meetings. Let's take a minute to consider the Trust Formula.

The Trust Formula

The Trust Formula is simple. It uses the main pillars of trust to determine trustworthiness.

Trust = (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy) / Self-Orientation

Each one of these criteria is out of 10 points. The highest score is 30.

For example, let's say I'm working with Kevin. He is really intelligent, gets his work done most of the time, but he is really bad at listening to people and often interjects with his own ideas, he might be rated like so:

Credibility = 7/10

Reliability = 8/10

Intimacy = 4/10

Self-Orientation = 9/10

Trust = (7 + 8 + 4) / 4 = 2.11

Let's take another instance of Jessica. She is really well-spoken, listens to other people's ideas at meetings, but doesn't deliver tasks on time. She might be rated like this:

Credibility = 7/10

Reliability = 4/10

Intimacy = 8/10

Self-Orientation = 2/10

Trust = (7 + 4 + 8) / 2 = 9.5

Even though Kevin is more reliable, I trust Jessica almost 4x more because she is aware of others’ thoughts, feelings, and challenges.

If you are interested in boosting your trust score, the fastest way is to learn to reduce your self-orientation to increase trust.

Building Trust at Work

1. Gain Credibility

Gaining credibility is essential. You can become more credible:

Be honest

Tell the truth. Don't lie to make yourself look better. It's always worse when you lie and get caught. Your credibility gets completely shattered.

Don’t be a know-it-all

Stop pretending like you know everything. You do not. Be willing to say when you don't know something. It's worse when you are in the wrong. You will completely lose credibility at that point.

Accept responsibility

Learn to accept responsibility when you are wrong. It's easy to deflect blame or hide the failure. But in the big picture, people don't trust others that are not willing to consider that they are in the wrong.

2. Become Reliable

You can be more dependable by:

Committing to your words

When you say it, do it. Don't let people question your reliability. Don't plant the seed of doubt when asked to do something.

Not overpromising

When you overpromise and underdeliver, people will stop relying on you. Be conscious of the words that you say. Promising less and delivering more will help you become reliable faster.

Doing your job

If a task is under your job description, don't let that fall onto someone else's plate. Failing to complete your assignments is highly frustrating when your tasks continue to fall onto other people's plates.

3. Increase Intimacy

Building intimacy is a matter of building friendship and relationship:

Trust people

If you want people to trust you, be willing to give it first.

Include others

People like to be a part of decisions, events, and the process. When you include people, they feel happier and trust you more.

Be accepting

Don't be judgmental of others. Be accepting of people's contributions and ideas. When people feel judged around you, they will feel insecure.

4. Become More Self-Aware

To decrease your focus on yourself:

Don't dominate the conversation

A conversation is a two-way street. If you tend to over speak, you are letting the other person that you don't care about what they have to say.

If you include people and ask questions, it has the opposite effect. It allows the conversation to become a two-way street and will enable you to share and trust.

Understand people

Have empathy for people and what they are going through. Their circumstances could be challenging. Spend some time building a relationship to get an idea of what that person is going through.

Don't steal credit, don't deflect blame

If you are always stealing the spotlight and deflecting the negative, people will not want to be around you. It prevents you from establishing trust if they think you'll blame them for the problems and steal credit for the positive things. When you accept responsibility, people will respect you for it.

Final Words

It's a process to establish trust in the workplace. When you are in an environment of trust in your organization, it creates a safe environment to motivate employees to do more. When trust exists, the employee engagement automatically improves. If you are a leader, invest in team building to develop trust in your team. If you are an employee, see how you can build a professional relationship with the people around you. Be a team player. Be reliable. Be someone that thinks about others instead of themselves. Following these principles allow you to build an environment of trust in any workplace.