Earning The Trust Of Your Workforce: 6 Tips for Success

by Mike O'Neill

No matter the environment, trust is something that is not usually earned easily, but it’s even more difficult to gain back once you’ve already lost it with someone. 

Perhaps you’re a new leader within an organization wondering how you can show your employees that you are worthy of their trust. Or, maybe something took place which may have caused your employees to lose the trust in you that they once had. 

Either way, the cost of a lack of trust in an organization’s leaders can be severely detrimental - it can lead to higher disengagement levels, absenteeism, and turnover. Thankfully, there are several strategies you can implement that will serve to build a strong foundation of trust with your employees. 

If you’re struggling with earning the trust of your workforce, the following six tips will help you get started.

6 Tips to Earn the Trust of Your Workforce

Tip #1. Be consistent.

Do what you say you will do. Employees want to know what they should expect from you in terms of your behavior. A critical part of this is following through on your commitments every time. To avoid overcommitting and later not being able to follow through, only verbalize commitments you are confident you will fulfill.

Employees want to know that you can be counted on when you commit to doing something, no matter how small. Being consistent with your employees helps to earn their trust because they will know what to expect from you as a leader. 

You should also be consistent with your words and actions, especially in high-pressure situations. Your ability to remain collected and composed when something gets difficult will have a direct impact on your workforce’s perception of you and your ability to lead them through challenging situations.

Tip #2. Be transparent.

Be honest with your employees, even when the information is not favorable. Many organizational leaders may intuitively wish to keep negative news about the company away from their employees. However, this does more harm than good. 

Employees want to know what is going on within the company, whether good or bad. If they fail to receive this information from a reliable source, this is where gossip will begin to spread. 

By choosing to be honest with your workforce, you are demonstrating that, for better or worse, you have nothing to hide, which will prevent infectious rumors from permeating the morale of your company.

Tip #3. Be attentive.

Your workforce wants to know that you care about them as individuals, not just as another number within the organization. Being attentive to your workforce involves actively listening to them, asking questions, and being open to receiving feedback. 

By actively listening to your employees and asking questions, you can learn about how they as an individual prefer to communicate and receive feedback. You will also learn more about their likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses. 

Employees trust leaders that they view as humans. By being attentive to your workforce as individuals as much as possible and responding accordingly, you communicate to your workforce that you value their individuality. 

Every human is unique. By recognizing the unique preferences and perspectives that each person brings to your organization, you will show your employees that you, too, are human.

Tip #4. Remain humble.

There are many behaviors you can implement to ensure you practice humility in your role as a leader. Humble leaders are not afraid to ask questions, admit mistakes, and admit when they don’t know the answer to a question they are asked. 

By asking questions of your workforce, such as their opinion on a decision that needs to be made, you show that you value other perspectives besides your own. 

Practicing humility communicates to your workforce that you acknowledge that you are far from perfect and recognize and admit your own mistakes. This helps to humanize you as a leader, which increases their level of trust in you. They will also be more willing to admit and talk about their own mistakes with you. 

Tip #5. Avoid playing favorites.

Failing to treat your workforce equally is a surefire way to cause them to lose trust in you. Employees can be highly sensitive to unequal treatment. Therefore, if you treat certain people within your workforce differently, whether it be preferential treatment or greater leniency, your employees will pick up on it quicker than you might think. 

Your workforce could perceive that you are playing favorites for several reasons, including offering certain employees more growth opportunities, socializing more with specific individuals, or letting certain people get away with actions while disciplining others for the same behaviors. 

Although it is natural to like some people more than others, it is critical to remain mindful of treating everyone impartially as a leader. If a member of your organization suspects that you are playing favorites, it communicates to them that you are not professional in your role as a leader, which can cause them to lose respect and trust in your abilities quickly.

Tip #6. Offer your trust to your employees.

It is important to remember that trust is a two-way street. If you want your employees to trust you, you must also be willing to offer your trust in your employees. You can demonstrate your trust in your employees by avoiding micromanaging. 

With a more hands-off approach, you communicate to your employees that you believe in their ability to complete the task effectively without you watching them every step of the way. 

When employees feel like their leaders trust them to get the job done and given the freedom to do so without someone always looking over their shoulder, it will work wonders with their level of trust in you. 

By showing your workforce that you are confident in their abilities, they will respond accordingly with increased confidence, both in themselves and in your abilities as a leader.

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