5 things you can do to improve your colleagues’ trust in you

Your creativity, productivity and ability to build relationships in the workplace will be severely affected if you don’t have a fundamental trust in your colleagues. If you’re unsure about your colleagues’ intentions and actions, how will you be able to concentrate on your work?

But what does trust even mean? Should I be willing to let my colleagues take care of my children, lend them my car, or what are we talking about here?

”Trust exists when team members have faith in their colleagues’ best intentions and have no reason to be defensive or cautious in relation to the group”.

When trust is established, we begin to achieve great results, come up with creative solutions and establish close collegial relationships.

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As with tango, it takes two to trust, but what can you do to build trust? You can start by displaying trustworthy behaviour in the following 5 ways:

1. Establish integrity – walk the talk

“A deal is a deal.” A popular saying, which offers good advice in relation to trust. If you want your colleagues to trust you, they have to be sure that what you say is also what you do.

Say you promised project manager John that you’ll have your part of the project done by Thursday. You must be done by Thursday. Pretty straightforward.

Did you promise your colleague Laura not to interrupt her presentation during a meeting? Be quiet until her presentation is over. Pretty straightforward.

Did you promise Ben from another team to have lunch with him? Then don’t give in to the temptation of sitting with your boss at another table. Pretty straightforward.

I’m sure you get my point now. Simple, but powerful.

2. Membership to exclusive clubs

Say you’re on holiday in a foreign country, and one late night, you walk into a bar in a rural town. You order a large beer, and after the first sip you glance around the room. To your great surprise, you spot a person in the corner of the room wearing a jersey from your old college baseball team! You strike up conversation with this person and find comfort in the well-known experience of talking about college baseball this far from home.

The trust in this scenario arises with the fact that you both belong to what (at least in a foreign country) is a very exclusive club: The club for college baseball fans, specifically those from your old college. This same mechanism can be used in the workplace to create trust. Find out which group memberships you have in common with your colleagues. Did anyone go to the same school as you? Does anyone have the same hobbies? The same experience from a previous career path?

This requires you to take the first step and seek out information about your colleagues. You’ll have to share personal stories, interests and quirks to find common ground.

3. Showcase your professional skills

If you’re the smartest accountant, engineer or journalist in the office, you’ll build a fundamental trust through your skills and your expertise. Many of your colleagues will see your competencies as the main reason to trust you. We know this from our own lives: we trust experts, professors and researchers, and they can convince us of anything from consumption patterns, diets and how to raise our children. Be aware that most of your colleagues will only start trusting you once they trust your professional skills, which are, after all, the reason you’re in the office in the first place.

4. Compatible values

Other colleagues may care less about your professional capabilities and build trust in you just because you’re a lovable goofball. Okay, maybe not quite, but in any case, compatible values may be way more important for this group of colleagues as opposed to skills and knowledge.

For these people, it’s important that they can recognize and spot your values in your behavior. Therefore, you’ll have much greater success trying to visibly outlive your values. This could be by showing compassion for your colleagues, asking questions because you’re curious, working hard because you’re ambitious or communicating clearly because you value honesty.

What matters is that your colleagues will trust that you’re a generally decent person and that you’re consistent in your values.

5. Be vulnerable

We’re all human, and you’re allowed to display that. We all build trust in people we can identify with and relate to. Therefore, being human and vulnerable is a good way to show your colleagues that you’re just like them.

Vulnerability can sound very emotional and even transgressive. It doesn’t have to be. It’s not necessary to share all your personal tragedies, worries and challenges. In fact, this can be exhausting for both you and those around you.

Instead, try thinking of vulnerability as limitations and effects. Try showcasing your personal limitations in your knowledge by answering “I don’t know” to a difficult question or saying “no” to task #1000 hitting your desk when you’re already swamped. This way, you display your human limitations.

Only The Ice Queen and The Great Dictator are not affected by events in our surroundings, so try to talk about situations that affect you emotionally. Frustration, happiness, hopelessness, motivation, inspiration. The entire spectrum will help show your colleagues that you’re just like them.

If you need more advice, it may be an idea to look inwards: what do the people you trust do?

If you’re interested in this topic, we recommend the book The Speed of Trust by Steven R. Covey.

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