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How to Build Trust and Confidence

As in any personal relationship, lack of trust and confidence in a commercial enterprise can lead to a lack of commitment to the cause, and this can lead to underperforming and failed objectives.

There are two issues to deal with concerning trust and confidence:

1. Trust in the organization

Trust in the higher objectives of the organization is crucial; that these objectives are honourable for one, and that they have been planned with foresight and competence. This harks back to the importance of sound planning right at the outset.

The worst outcome of poor managerial planning is that the survival of the organization itself can be jeopardized, which could have clear and dire consequences for all employees. The moment such doubt exists in an organization, the situation can quickly deteriorate; the saying about “rats leaving a sinking ship” comes to mind.

Trust in the organization at large means building trust in team leadership and vision. Managers and leaders need to be seen to be committed. This allows employees to more readily accept difficult times when they arrive because they feel the correct decisions have been made and the right people are at the helm to weather the storm.

Creating trust and confidence in the organization’s objectives necessitates covering all the bases. This means that any new venture must be assessed not just on its merits, but crucially also for its possible pitfalls. Only if these are known can people be confident that the management team has planned for every eventuality.

If there are unknowns in the equation, copious research should be carried out to find as much information as possible, and the worst-case scenario that could result. Ultimately, there are no foregone conclusions in business, and, by its very nature, trust is not based on cast-iron assurances, rather on the probability that everything will progress in the most pleasing manner.

It is at this point that management must commit itself, reveal its intentions, and ask for the trust of the employees.

2. Trust amongst individuals

This is the second area where trust and confidence must be built. Although this is the basis of trust in the organization as a whole, in this respect we are dealing with the day-to-day interactions of the management with its team members, and amongst team members.

This is a crucial issue. Managers must be trusted for their management functions to be realized most effectively, and for their team to gel and become a commercial force to be reckoned with.

The issue of trust in others is an easy one to define. Trusting someone we work with is about having faith in them; believing that they are as good as their word. For managers, it is a matter of having faith in an employee to carry out a task without undue monitoring – knowing that they will not only complete the task when asked but that they will complete it in line with the stated objectives.

It is also a matter of believing that people will behave acceptably in more general terms. A worker who is excellent at their job but who constantly undermines other members of the team must still be defined as untrustworthy. To be trusted, employees at any level should abide by both company codes of practice and the moral and legal mores that society commonly expects.

Trust makes the working environment easier for everyone and creates the correct atmosphere for the best work to take place. However, if trust is so easily defined and so important, why is it that many managers report that they do not believe they enjoy the trust of the people working under them?

The problem seems to be that trust can be based on outcomes, and when situations are not running smoothly, managers can lose the trust they have created. In reality, this suggests that trust was not evident in the first place because trust is something that should bridge the difficult times.

Trust that disappears when times are hard is extremely fickle and may suggest a larger problem within the organization where overall objectives are not perceived as credible, achievable, or worthwhile. In this case, managers are targeted because they are perceived as being the figurehead of the organization who is easiest to blame, simply because they are most visible.   

Talking through issues of trust with employees is a vital part of managerial skills. The effective manager must show they are fully aware that trust is important, and they must seek to identify exactly how trust between themselves and their team, and within their team, can be quantified. This is the only way any problems or shortfalls can be identified.

Managers must nurture trust in their team to ease the flow of communication. Communication is the lifeblood of a healthy organization because it allows the swift identification of problems. It also allows for an atmosphere of honesty to underpin that communication. Communication of itself is not the goal; the fact that people are talking to each other does not say anything about the quality of that communication. It is open and honest communication that is required, and trust must be the precursor for this to happen.

Employees who trust their managers are more likely to tell them what they need to hear, not what they believe they want to hear. Receiving false information from team members, or receiving the truth too late, could seriously jeopardize the goals of the organization.

A trusting atmosphere also makes for a happy atmosphere. Tensions are reduced when people feel they can trust each other. The overall objectives of a team are achieved by the individual successes of each member, and success is, therefore, a cumulative and collaborative affair.

One person who cannot be trusted to perform at their best can produce a poisoned workplace because those team members who are fully contributing will feel their efforts are being hampered. The less trusting a team of employees is, the harder their manager will have to work. This alone should be reason enough for any manager to strive to create trust and confidence: for an easier working life.

Identifying Trust

Instant trust is certainly possible, but it would be a very gullible individual who adopted such an attitude towards a complete stranger. The opposite end of the spectrum is a relationship where both parties have known each other for decades. This is far more common in personal relationships than professional, but such long-standing professional relationships certainly do exist.

However, even in this latter scenario, it is not uncommon for one or both parties to spring some unpleasant surprises after so many years.

The longer you know someone, the easier it is to trust them, provided they offer no reasons to make you feel otherwise. When trust is violated in some way, it can disappear forever.

In a professional environment, managers cannot wait decades to establish trust, thus there needs to be monitoring, such as spot checks and behavioural analysis. Although this may give the impression that employees are not to be trusted, there is no other way to effectively monitor for correct behaviour.

The types of behaviour a manager might seek to assess are:

  • Does the employee distort the truth?
  • Does the employee possess the requisite skills for the job?
  • Can the employee be left to get on with their job?
  • Is the employee reliable?
  • Is the employee prone to gossip and spread rumours?
  • Will the employee speak up if there is a problem?
  • Will the employee support fellow colleagues?

How do managers create distrust?

Managers need to remember that they may themselves be responsible for creating distrust in the workplace. These are the most obvious ways in which managers can produce distrust between themselves and their team:

  • Inconsistency in communication; saying one thing and doing the opposite.
  • Inconsistency in how they treat different team members.
  • Failure to offer clear or honest feedback.
  • Failure to pass on information pertinent to the team.
  • Hidden agendas and ulterior motives.
  • Reluctant to trust other people.

Managers lead by example. Negative traits in a manager make it easier for similar traits to appear on their team. An atmosphere of distrust has a hugely negative effect on any workplace, and every effort must be made to employ the tactics that nurture trust


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