How to Establish Employee Trust

“Andy Bernard. Pros: He’s classy. He gets me. He went to Cornell. I trust him. Cons: I don’t really trust him.” – Michael Scott, The Office

Employees and managers need to be able to trust each other. Managers want to know that their team is going to deliver and employees need to know that their manager has their back. So, what can you do to develop employee trust?

Set Clear Expectations

This extends from company-wide expectations to employee-specific goals. Employees need to know what to expect from the time they interview—your organization should be clear about company policies, perks, benefits, and the type of culture into which the employee will be entering.

You should regularly update employees on company goals and metrics. Employees need to understand how their role fits in the bigger picture and where the company is headed. No one likes to be blindsided by bad news.

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Get to Know Each Other

Simple, but essential: Managers and employees need to have regular face-to-face conversations. If employees believe that a manager is hiding in their office or behind their computer, trust immediately goes out the window.

Less Talking, More Listening

If an employee comes to you for help, don’t simply tell them what to do. Talk through the problem, ask them what they think the best solution is, and guide them toward an answer. Lean on your employees’ expertise, encourage them to share insight about problem areas and ideas for improvement. They probably have a better understanding of customers and day-to-day morale. MIT Sloan School of Management Senior Lecturer Jim Dougherty says, “Managers will never learn the truth about a company unless they have employees’ trust.”

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Don’t Play Favorites

One of the quickest ways to build resentment and eliminate trust is to play favorites. If one or two employees always get the star treatment or the inside scoop, a major morale problem could develop among your team. And never badmouth a colleague. Word will spread and people will quickly lose faith.

Take the Blame

When obstacles inevitably arise and failures occur, managers should take the blame rather than pointing fingers at their team. Show employees that you’re on their side and won’t throw them under the bus. Similarly, managers should admit when they’ve made a mistake. Half of respondents in a survey said that their boss never apologizes, and only 5% of employees said their boss always apologizes when they’re wrong.

Don’t Micromanage

“People will trust you if you trust them,” says Jim Dougherty. Demonstrate your trust in employees by delegating responsibilities and assigning tasks that will challenge and expand their skill sets. Take a step back and let them see the project through to completion. Allow them to make mistakes and use it as a learning opportunity. That’s the type of fearless mindset that allows teams to innovate and grow.